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UK revises up GDP as construction data changes kick in

[LONDON] Britain's economic growth rate was stronger than previously estimated last year and in early 2015, the country's statistics office said as it announced revisions to the way it measures the construction sector.

Gross domestic product would rise by 3.1 per cent in 2014, up from a previous reading of 2.8 per cent, under the revisions announced on Friday, the Office for National Statistics said.

The ONS said it had changed the way it calculates price changes in the construction sector and its method for seasonal adjustments to the data.

Construction output in the first quarter of this year was revised to show a fall of 0.2 per cent, a weaker decline than a fall of 1.1 per cent previously reported for the January-March period.

In the month of April, construction output fell by 0.8 per cent from March when it had risen by 1.4 per cent.

Compared with a year earlier, construction output rose 1.5 per cent, slowing from a rise of 5.0 per cent in March.

Construction makes up 6.4 per cent of Britain's economy.

The country's economy slowed sharply in the first three months of this year and the weakness in the construction sector was one of the drags on the growth rate.

The recent weakness in construction was linked to uncertainty ahead Britain' national elections on May 7 which resulted in an unexpectedly decisive victory for Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party.

An industry survey published last week showed confidence among construction firms hit a nine-year high after the outcome of election became known in May.

The Bank of England last month cited a weaker outlook for house-building as one reason for its lowering of its overall growth forecasts for Britain.

Friday's data showed housebuilding in April rose by 5.4 per cent in monthly terms after falling by a revised 2.0 per cent in the first quarter, the biggest quarterly drop in nearly three years.

Recent data have shown house prices are starting to pick up again after a slowdown in the second half of last year caused by tighter mortgage lending rules.

On Thursday, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said house prices were likely to become less affordable over the next three months after last month's election result failed to trigger an expected return of sellers to the market.