UK construction PMI falls to five-month low despite strong house-building

A general view of the financial district of London is seen in London

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s construction sector lost momentum in October but suffered less than the most of the coronavirus-hit economy thanks to a buoyant housing market, a business survey showed on Thursday.

The IHS Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index for the construction sector dropped to 53.1 in October from September’s 56.8, a bigger drop than the decline to 55.0 which economists had forecast in a Reuters poll, and its lowest since May.

However, unlike figures released on Wednesday for the much larger services sector, the gauge remained well above the 50 level which separates growth from contraction.

“The construction sector was a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy month for the UK economy during October,” IHS Markit economist Tim Moore said.

House-building was the biggest contributor to growth, reflecting a boom in demand since the end of lockdown, helped by a temporary cut in property taxes which has seen lenders approve the highest number of mortgages since 2007.

New orders in the sector, which makes up about 6% of Britain’s economy, rose by the most in five years.

The construction industry is also exempt from the four-week lockdown which started in England on Thursday — although firms last month were concerned about the potential knock-on effects on demand from rising COVID-19 cases.

“Survey respondents widely commented on renewed economic uncertainty and concerns about the sustainability of the recovery as pent-up demand begins to wane,” Moore said.

The civil engineering sector continued to report steep declines in activity, while growth in commercial activity was fairly muted.

(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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