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UK construction slips in February, housebuilding strong

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Britain's construction sector weakened slightly in February but construction of new homes hit a record, helping lift overall construction output in the previous three months to its fastest growth in nearly a year.

[LONDON] Britain's construction sector weakened slightly in February but construction of new homes hit a record, helping lift overall construction output in the previous three months to its fastest growth in nearly a year.

The Office for National Statistics said construction output, which makes up 6 per cent of the economy, fell 0.3 per cent on the month in February but resumed growth on an annual basis, edging up 0.3 per cent, slightly less than forecast in a Reuters poll.

In contrast to a survey by data company Markit, Friday's official figures offer little sign that the construction sector is being hit by worries about Britain's June referendum on European Union membership, or an increase in taxation on landlords.

Looking at the three months to February as a whole, the ONS said output rose 1.5 per cent compared with the previous three months, its fastest growth rate since March 2015.

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The ONS said output was propelled by a record volume of housebuilding, which increased by 6.8 per cent in the three months to February, its fastest growth rate in almost two years.

One weak spot was a sharp fall in the small private industrial sub-sector, which covers things such as new factories.

Britain's government last year stepped up incentives for people to buy newly built homes as part of an effort to resolve a long-standing shortfall in construction.

Markit's survey - which some economists prefer as a gauge of the construction industry - had reported the weakest growth in nearly a year in February and was no stronger in March, reflecting the lowest housing growth in three years.

The Bank of England on Thursday said it had seen a striking fall in commercial property transactions due to worries about Britain's June 23 referendum on EU membership and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said its members expected a lull in residential sales.

This lull also reflects a tax rise on purchase of property by landlords, which took effect on April 1, RICS said.

REUTERS

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