U.K. Construction Shrank for Fifth Month in March, Markit Says

U.K. construction contracted for a fifth consecutive month in March as the industry suffered from bad weather and poor demand, Markit Economics said.

An index of activity was at 47.2 in March compared with 46.8 in February, when it reached the lowest in more than three years. Markit and the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply said on its website today in London. Economists forecast 48, based on the median of 11 estimates. A reading below 50 indicates contraction.

The Bank of England is under pressure to revive a flagging economy. Its governor, Mervyn King, is this month expected by economists to lose his third consecutive bid to increase emergency stimulus from the 375 billion pounds ($566 billion) already injected into the economy.

“The latest figures complete the picture of a fairly dismal first quarter, which has admittedly been affected by unusually bad weather, with output and employment down on the last quarter of 2012,” said David Noble, chief executive officer of CIPS.

The government has introduced measures to spur house building. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne last month pledged help for new homebuyers, committing 3.5 billion pounds to offer and guarantee loans. Osborne said that under the “Help to Buy” program, the government will provide an equity loan of up to 20 percent of the value of a newly built home.

Bank of England policy makers begin their monthly two-day meeting today and will keep their bond-purchase goal unchanged, according to the median of 37 economists in a Bloomberg survey. Three economists predict a 25 billion-pound increase.