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Orders continue to decline

INFRASTRUCTURE ORDERS are continuing to plunge, despite a jump in workload during the second quarter of the year.

Although civil engineering orders rose 25% on the first three months of 1998 - reach- ing their highest level for a year - they remained 12% down on the same quarter in 1997, with the rolling 12 month total down 22%.

Worst hit was the roads sector, with orders falling to £168M at current prices in the second quarter. The rolling 12 month total was down 38% at £837M. Biggest gains were in the water and sewerage sector which has risen 11% to £1.5bn.

Overall, new construction work continues to increase, though at slower rate. Orders in the second quarter of the year were 4% down on the first three months, but virtually the same as in the same period in 1997. The rolling 12 month total was up 4%.

Still leading the way was the commercial sector with orders up 17% on the year. The public non-housing sector also did well, finally benefiting from cash released by the Government, and saw orders increase by 11%.

Despite high interest rates and the strong pound, orders for industrial buildings still rose 10%.

The other big drag on the market was housing. A collapse in orders during the second quarter - 17% down on the first three months - stopped growth for the first time in two years.

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