Two new surveys show October was a strong month for Britain's manufacturing and retail sectors.

The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply purchasing managers' index stood at 54.2 last month – above the 50.0 threshold between expansion and contraction.

This was the fourth consecutive month of growth in manufacturing activity and the biggest rise since December 1999. The index was lifted by a healthy rise in output – which increased faster than in any month for seven years – and new orders. However, employment slipped back into decline after managing its first expansion for four years in September.

• Separately, the Confederation of British Industry found that 56% of retailers saw a sales upturn in October, compared with 21% who noted a decline. The 35-point difference is the highest since April 2002.

Meanwhile, last month was tough for the US auto industry – and especially for General Motors and Ford Motor Company.

Total October sales across the car industry were flat year-on-year. According to Ward's Automotive Reports, last month's figures translate into an annual sales rate of 15.6 million units, well down on the forecast 16.1m and the 18.9m reported in August, the strongest month of 2003 so far. Analysts now fear that final full-year sales will be under 17m for the first time in five years.

October brought year-on-year falls in sales for GM (–7%) and Ford (–2%), two of the 'big three' US auto giants. Chrysler Group, the third and smallest of the Detroit trio, posted an 11% rise, keeping it just ahead of Toyota Motor (which climbed 11.7%) in terms of total monthly sales.

Of the other foreign carmakers, Nissan Motor, BMW and Hyundai were all up last month, while Honda Motor suffered a surprise 2.9% drop. Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff