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UK construction growth hits three-month low in December, PMI shows

UK construction growth hits three-month low in December, PMI shows
FILE PHOTO: Cranes fill the sky above a construction site in central London, Britain August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo -
Phil Noble(Reuters)
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LONDON (Reuters) - Growth in Britain's construction sector fell to a three-month low in December, though businesses struck a more upbeat tone for the coming year despite Brexit uncertainty delaying commercial projects, a survey showed on Thursday.

The IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to 52.8 from 53.4 in November, broadly in line with the consensus expectation of 52.9 in a Reuters poll of economists.

The fastest upturn in civil engineering activity since May 2017 was not enough to counter a slowdown in housebuilding and commercial construction, the survey showed.

"Subdued domestic economic conditions and an intense headwind from political uncertainty resulted in the weakest upturn in commercial work for seven months," IHS Markit economist Tim Moore said.

Still, optimism in the construction industry, which accounts for around 7 percent of British economic output, rose to an eight-month high in December, contrasting with falling confidence in other sectors before Britain leaves the European Union in less than three months' time.

"Levels of optimism remained subdued in relation to those recorded by the survey over much of the past six years, largely reflecting concerns that Brexit uncertainty will continue to encourage delays with decision-making," Moore said.

Businesses in the much larger services sector reported the slowest sales growth in two years during the final three months of 2018, another sign of a slowing economy ahead of Brexit, the British Chambers of Commerce reported earlier on Thursday.

PMI compiler IHS Markit linked the rise in morale among construction companies to upcoming major transport and energy projects.

The closely watched PMI for services is due on Friday.

(Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by Larry King)

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