May 3, 2017 / 9:44 AM / 3 months ago

UK construction growth surprises, hitting four-month high: PMI

FILE PHOTO: Construction cranes are seen on a residential building project behind homes in London, Britain, October 26, 2016.Toby Melville/Files

Growth in Britain's construction industry accelerated to a four-month high in April, adding to tentative signs that the economy might be recovering a little momentum after a lackluster start to 2017, a survey showed on Wednesday.

The Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to 53.1 from 52.2 in March, against forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists for a slight fall.

Civil engineering grew at the fastest pace in just over a year and growth in house-building hit a four-month high.

The figures followed a similar survey published on Monday that showed British factories had their best month in three years in April.

A bricklayer working for Taylor Wimpey builds a wall on an estate in Aylesbury, Britain February 7, 2017.Eddie Keogh

The readings should come as a relief for Prime Minister Theresa May as she gears up for a national election on June 8.

Official data last week showed the economy slowed sharply in the first three months of the year as inflation hurt consumers.

Wednesday's release showed construction companies took on workers at the fastest rate since May last year to help cope with an influx of new orders, while cost pressures on firms eased further after hitting six-year highs earlier in 2017.

Bank of England officials are due to meet next week to set interest rates, with some policymakers uneasy about the risk of inflation becoming entrenched in the economy.

Economists will be eyeing Thursday's PMI for the much larger services sector for a stronger steer on how the economy has started the second quarter.

Reporting by Andy Bruce; editing by John Stonestreet

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