UK manufacturing growth at fastest since records began
UK manufacturing in January expanded at its fastest pace since records began in 1992, according to a survey by the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS).
Employment in the manufacturing sector also rose at the fastest pace since the records began.
The findings underline the importance of manufacturing to the UK's recovery.
But the survey also showed factory costs rising, raising fears about growing inflation.
The Markit/CIPS manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) expresses the health of the sector, with any measure above 50 indicating expansion.
It reached 62.0 in January from an upwardly revised 58.7 in December.
The figures suggest the manufacturing sector continues to enjoy strong growth even as economic activity elsewhere remains subdued.
Gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 0.5% in the last three months of 2010.
Some economists said the CIPS data increased the likelihood of a rise in interest rates in the near future.
Ross Walker of RBS, said the PMI brought forward the risk of a rate rise "sooner rather than later and brings February into play as a possibility".
He added: "The only reason people think February is not a possibility is because of the GDP numbers... they [the MPC] might want to see more evidence of there being a rebound."
Two of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee members voted for a rise at their last meeting.