LONDON (Reuters) - British factories perked up unexpectedly in September, halting a three-month run of slowing growth even though the bigger picture stayed subdued six months ahead of Brexit, a survey showed on Monday.
The IHS Markit/CIPS Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to 53.8 from an upwardly revised 53.0 in August, topping all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists that had pointed to a reading of 52.5.
Export order books recovered slightly from the first decline in more than two years during August, while output expanded at the fastest pace in four months.
Still, survey compiler IHS Markit said the latest reading was consistent with the official measure of manufacturing output expanding only moderately.
Britain's economy has relied heavily on spending by consumers to soften the slowdown that followed the decision by voters in 2016 to leave the European Union.
Official data on Friday showed Britain's manufacturing sector failed to contribute to economic growth during the first half of 2018.
"Despite (some) causes for short-term optimism, conditions in manufacturing are still relatively lacklustre overall," Rob Dobson, director at IHS Markit, said.
"Many UK manufacturers also noted that the backdrop of Brexit and a volatile exchange rate were making any forecasting activity increasingly difficult, with uncertainty and adding to reluctance to hire."
Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29 but London and Brussels remain deadlocked over the terms of their separation, meaning there remains some chance of a potentially damaging "no deal" Brexit.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by Toby Chopra)