Poor growth sparks slowdown fears in UK economy
Sluggish growth from Britain's powerhouse services sector has pointed to a slowdown in the UK economy, according to a report.
The closely watched Markit/CIPS services purchasing managers' index (PMI) showed a reading of 53.7 last month, improving on the near three-year low of 52.7 seen in February. A reading above 50 signals growth.
But the pace of growth was dragged down by concerns over the gloomy outlook for the global economy and fears that Britain could vote to leave the European Union, the report found.
It said the lacklustre performance from the services sector - coupled with flagging growth in the construction and manufacturing industries - suggested gross domestic product (GDP) had slowed in the first quarter of 2016 to 0.4%, down from 0.6% in the fourth quarter of last year.
Expansion in the services sector over the first three months of this year was the weakest it has been for three years, while new business rose by its slowest rate since January 2013.
The study said growth was likely to remain "subdued" heading into the second quarter.
The report on the services sector, which accounts for three-quarters of the UK economy, will reinforce expectations that the Bank of England will keep interest rates at 0.5%.
Some economists believe the sluggish growth from services may strengthen the case for a potential rate cut.
The construction PMI on Monday showed housebuilding activity grew at its slowest pace for more than three years in March.