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UK construction buoyed by house-building: surveys

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Britain's construction industry is being shielded from the uncertainty about Brexit by modest growth in house-building, industry surveys showed on Thursday.

[LONDON] Britain's construction industry is being shielded from the uncertainty about Brexit by modest growth in house-building, industry surveys showed on Thursday.

Builders registered 37,672 new homes for warranties and insurance from the National House-Building Council (NHBC) between January and March, up 3 per cent compared with a year earlier.

NHBC's figures, which cover 80 per cent of the new homes market, are viewed as a lead indicator for the housing sector.

Separately, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said private house-building supported the otherwise subdued construction industry, with overall confidence at an almost six-year low.

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While the commercial construction sector has been hurt by falling business investment ahead of Brexit, efforts to narrow a shortfall in the number of residential homes on the market has helped the house-building sector.

Construction represents about 6 per cent of British economic output.

"We are pleased to report good numbers for the start of the year, although we do need to bear in mind the situation 12 months ago when freezing conditions caused major hold-ups in registrations as well as build-rates across the bulk of the UK," NHBC chief executive Steve Wood said.

Uncertainty around Brexit had caused "some dampening" of the housing market for new homes in early 2019, he said.

Prime Minister Theresa May has failed to get her European Union divorce deal through parliament, forcing her to delay the original Brexit date of March 29. A new deadline has been set for Oct 31, more than three years since the 2016 referendum.

House-building was the only source of growth for Britain's construction industry during the first three months of 2019, according to the most recent purchasing managers index from IHS Markit/CIPS. The survey for April is due at 0830 GMT. 

REUTERS