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Snowstorm tears through UK construction in March

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An unusual Siberian weather system that British meteorologists dubbed "the Beast from the East" brought snow, strong winds and the coldest temperatures in several years to much of Britain.

London

BRITAIN'S construction industry seized up due to heavy snow last month, prompting the biggest drop in activity since just after 2016's Brexit vote, an industry survey showed on Wednesday.

The IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) slumped to 47 from 51.4 in February.

It was a bigger fall than had been predicted by any economist in a Reuters poll, which on average pointed to only a modest drop to 50.8. The 50-point line divides expansions in activity from contractions.

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Last month, an unusual Siberian weather system that British meteorologists dubbed "the Beast from the East" brought snow, strong winds and the coldest temperatures in several years to much of Britain and elsewhere in Europe.

House building was little affected, but the storm clobbered other sectors, the survey showed.

Civil engineering firms suffered their biggest downturn in five years. The survey's index for commercial work, which had recovered in January and February, staged its biggest one-month drop since 2009.

But Bank of England officials, who are widely expected to raise interest rates in May, are unlikely to be perturbed by a single month of weak construction figures.

A separate PMI published on Tuesday showed that manufacturers shrugged off the bad weather. There were also signs that a rebound in construction should follow in April. Optimism among construction companies hit a nine-month high in March and they hired workers at a faster pace. REUTERS