He said almost 38% of firms had signalled rises of more than 5% over the full year. Wilén said: "On exports, companies are hopeful that the corner has been turned with, on balance, a fifth of all firms expecting to increase their exports sales over the coming year."
Wilen added that the industry's optimism was fuelled by an increase in capital spending in almost all areas, reflecting manufacturers' positive if cautious outlook.
The latest figures from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply were also positive, revealing further expansion of the UK construction sector in February.
The construction purchasing managers' index rose from 54.2 in January to 54.9 in February (50 indicating no change). The CIPS said that the rate of growth of industry activity has remained generally stable over the past 10 months.