Markets

Jennifer Ryan is a Bloomberg Gadfly editor. She previously reported on economics and corporate finance for Bloomberg News in London and New York.

Brexit? What Brexit? U.K. companies have an even sunnier disposition in March than they did in February, according to a survey published on Wednesday.

IHS Markit's Purchasing Manager Index for service companies rose to 55 from 53.3 (signalling faster expansion), while its composite gauge, which includes manufacturing and construction, climbed to 54.9 from 53.8.

PMI Pickup
The pound loved Wednesday's report of a pickup in U.K. services in March
Source: IHS Markit, Bloomberg
Readings above 50 indicate expansion, below 50 indicate contraction

This was enough to send the pound up by around 0.4 percent against the dollar and euro soon after the report was published at 9:30 in London, and the currency has hung on to much of those gains.

Happy Days
Pound's gain after U.K. PMIs published overlooks looming strains in British economy
Intraday times are displayed in ET.

That optimism should be short lived. Uncertainty over Brexit held back some investment decisions, and the overall picture was one of slower growth in the first quarter, according to Markit.

While the pound's post-referendum weakness fueled demand from abroad, the report showed, don't take that as a sign that foreign spenders may yet save the day. It's far from certain that will be enough to offset weakening consumer demand and faster price gains. Retailers aren't included in the PMI, and some, such as Next Plc, are already girding for a hit to shoppers' spending power.

The benefits of a weaker pound may have to be pretty substantial to counteract the squeeze that's coming.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Jennifer Ryan in London at jryan13@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Edward Evans at eevans3@bloomberg.net