Surging output and an influx of orders helped British manufacturing activity grow last month at a much faster rate than expected, a survey showed today.

The Markit/CIPS UK Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index rose in April to 57.3, its highest reading since November, compared a March reading of 55.8 that was revised up from 55.3.

Readings above 50 denote growth and the latest reading was above all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists that pointed to 55.4.

In further signs of strength in manufacturing, which accounts for around a 10th of Britain's economy, factories took on staff at a faster pace last month.

The output index rose sharply to an eight-month high, while new orders grew at a faster rate thanks to improved demand from domestic and export markets.

"This places the sector perfectly to build on the robust 1.3% expansion in manufacturing production reported by the first estimate of Q1 GDP," said Rob Dobson, senior economist at survey compiler Markit. 

Britain's economy grew 0.8% quarter on quarter in the first three months of the year, and 3.1% compared with the same time a year ago - its best showing in over six years. 

Inflation fell to its lowest in over four years in March, and the latest PMI showed price pressures in manufacturing eased further in April.

"The backdrop remains one of generally subdued inflationary pressures in the UK, meaning that the Bank of England will likely maintain a wait-and-see track until later in the year," Markit said.