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U.K. Construction Shrinks at Fastest Pace Since October 2009

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March 4 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. construction shrank the most in more than three years in February as commercial and civil engineering work declined, Markit Economics said.

An index of activity fell to 46.8 from 48.7 in January, Markit and the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply said in an e-mailed report today in London. That’s the lowest since October 2009 and below economists’ forecast for a reading of 49, based on the median of nine estimates. A reading below 50 indicates contraction.

The construction report follows a survey by Markit last week that showed manufacturing unexpectedly shrank in February, reviving concerns the economy could shrink again this quarter. Services growth probably slowed last month, economists said before another report tomorrow.

“There is barely a crumb of comfort in this month’s figures for the construction industry,” said CIPS Chief Executive Officer David Noble. They are “disappointing to say the least and with little in sight to improve the sector’s fortunes.”

Bank of England policy makers begin their monthly two-day meeting on March 6 and will keep their bond-purchase target unchanged, according to the median of 39 economists in a Bloomberg survey. They also left the target on hold last month, when they discussed new measures to revive growth.

Commercial construction shrank at the steepest pace for more than three years, while the reduction in work on civil engineering projects was the fastest since October 2009, Markit said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jennifer Ryan in London at jryan13@bloomberg.net; Scott Hamilton in London at shamilton8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at cstirling1@bloomberg.net.

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