United Kingdom services activity grew more than expected in February, supporting economic growth and keeping alive the prospect of an interest-rate increase within months.
The Purchasing Managers' Index for services came in at 54.5 in the month, up from 53 in January and outstripping City of London expectations of a 53.3 reading.
But the index remained above the 50 threshold that separates expansion from contraction for the 17th consecutive month. It estimates growth of 0.4 percent this quarter, matching the rate of the final three months of 2017.
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Employment growth accelerated to a five-month high in February, driven by stronger than-expected sales growth and subsequent efforts to expand business capacity. "It's too early to read too much into the February fall in the PMI, and some pull-back from January's high was always on the cards", said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.
The composite PMI, which includes both manufacturing and services, fell to 52.2 from 52.8 in January.
While Markit's manufacturing index for February declined, construction performed better, and it said the surveys show a "steady pace" of economic expansion is being maintained. In fact, the services sector was growing faster than manufacturing for only the second time since the Brexit referendum.
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I think his own heart is more important than my advice, because my advice is purely from the career point of view. Both England and Scotland are involved in a tug-of-war over luring him into their global set-ups.
On the price front, input price inflation eased to its lowest since August 2016, despite higher staff salaries and transport costs.
While conditions and performance have improved, companies still felt gloomier about the year ahead in February compared to the month before.
"However, there is clearly the risk that GDP growth will be slower in the first quarter of 2018 due to the severe weather taking a toll on the economy".
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