Brexit preparations help Irish manufacturing recover from two-year low-PMI

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DUBLIN,(Reuters) - Irish manufacturing growth recovered in February from a two-year low the previous month as output, employment and stocks all increased significantly weeks ahead of Britain's scheduled exit from the European Union, a survey showed on Friday.

The AIB manufacturing purchasing managers' index improved to 54.0 in February from 52.6 in January, which was the slowest growth since October 2016. The February reading was well ahead of the euro zone flash manufacturing PMI of 49.2.

Ireland has weathered the initial uncertainty from the 2016 Brexit vote, posting the fastest economic growth in Europe for five straight years. But its central bank has warned a 'no deal' Brexit could knock as much as 4 percentage points off the growth rate in its first full year.

Britain has yet to agree a withdrawal deal or request and extension to avoid crashing out of the bloc on March 29.

"The rise in the Irish index was driven by stronger growth in output and new orders, with firms reporting a pick-up in both domestic and international demand, most notably from the U.S. and UK," AIB Chief Economist Oliver Mangan said.

"The impact of Brexit was evident in many of the components of the PMI as some firms moved to take action to avoid possible disruption to supply chains," he said.

Stocks of purchases have risen in 11 of the past 12 months and pre-production inventories increased in February at their fastest pace in the 21-year history of the survey. Employment hit a four-month high, it said.

A number of panelists said they had brought forward purchases of inputs to secure raw materials in case of any stock problems resulting from Brexit, but others reported stronger customer demand, the authors said in a statement.

The index has remained above the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction for the 69th successive month.

Detailed PMI data are only available under licence from Markit and customers need to apply to Markit for a licence.

(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Toby Chopra;; +35315001518; Reuters Messaging:

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