British industry sustained its recovery last month with the growth in manufacturing activity easing off only slightly from a 17-month peak established in April.
The seasonally-adjusted Purchasing Managers' Index for manufacturing, compiled by the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply and the Royal Bank of Scotland, came in with an index number of 53.2, down from 54.0 in April.
That was on a scale where anything above 50 indicates growth.
Export orders were gathering momentum with an index number of 54.8 - the strongest reading since January, 2004 - pointing to faster growth than in April. The CIPS attributed the improvement to a marked increase in new business from Germany.
Demand for British goods from Japan and the US was stronger, too.
This enabled makers of capital equipment to secure substantial price increases. The CIPS' index number for prices of investment goods jumped to 73.1 from 59.5 in April. The index for new orders from all sources was little changed at 55.5.
But fast-rising prices of metals and plastics, as well as oil and other sources of energy, pushed the input index measuring the trend in manufacturers' costs to a 16-month high with an index reading of 67.4.
Factory gate prices generally rose for the tenth month running, with an index number of 53.7, up from 52 in April, but still lagged well behind purchasing costs.
Companies responded to this pressure on their margins with more restructuring and efficiency programmes.
The CIPS sub-index measuring jobs fell back into negative territory after rising in April for the first time in 13 months.
"Following last month's renewed strong performance in the manufacturing sector, the Purchasing Managers' Index saw sustained growth for yet another month," commented Roy Ayliffe, director of professional practice at the CIPS.
"With strong economic growth in the eurozone, especially from Germany, the export of UK goods continued to improve. The unrelenting recovery being experienced by the sector is bolstering manufacturers' outlook about the future with levels of confidence hitting another high."
The CIPS interpreted the renewed job losses and declining backlogs of work as evidence that industry still has enough spare capacity to cope with new and existing contracts.
This could have a bearing on the Bank of England's view of the implications for inflation of the extent to which manufacturers are succeeding in passing on to their customers some of their costs arising from the oil and commodity booms.
"The Bank will note the rise in the output price index in May, but the survey suggests that manufacturers are still largely absorbing their high input costs," said Howard Archer, an economist at Global Insight.
"Overall, the survey does little to alter our view that interest rates will remain on hold for several more months to come."
The next monthly decision of the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee is on Thursday.