June 4, 2018 / 8:34 AM / 3 months ago

UK builders hold on to modest recovery, Brexit worries weigh - PMI

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s construction industry in May maintained its modest recovery from a hit during the snowy start to 2018, but worries about Brexit were causing some projects to be put on hold, a survey showed on Monday.

Construction cranes are seen in London, Britain, October 2, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Adding to other signs that Britain’s overall economy was picking up after a January-March slump, the IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) held at 52.5, unchanged from April’s modest growth rate after a sharp contraction in March.

That was above the median forecast of 51.9 in a Reuters poll of economists.

The Bank of England is looking for signs that the near-stagnation of Britain’s economy in early 2018 was only temporary before it resumes its plan to gradually raise interest rates.

“Activity in May was once again buoyed by some firms still catching up from disruptions caused by the unusually poor weather conditions in March,” Sam Teague, an economist at IHS Markit, said.

“A renewed drop in new work hinted that the recovery could prove short-lived,” he said.

New order books shrank for the fourth time in five months with companies blaming political and economic uncertainty ahead of Britain’s departure from the European Union in March next year. Optimism about growth prospects fell to a seven-month low.

Also worrying for construction firms, higher fuel and steel prices pushed up input costs.

Construction accounts for only around 6 percent of British economic output.

A PMI survey covering Britain’s manufacturers, which was published on Friday, showed growth in the factory sector picked up in May but showed signs of weakness ahead.

The PMI for the much larger services sector is due on Tuesday.

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