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It's bad, but this is not a recession, say businesses

Business leaders cast doubt on yesterday's gloomy GDP figures, arguing that the slump they suggested was not only at odds with their experience but also threatened Britain's fragile economic confidence.

Meanwhile, upbeat figures from the CBI on the manufacturing industry made the official numbers look even more overly pessimistic.

Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, the world's biggest advertising agency, told i's sister paper, The Independent, that clients had not cut their marketing spend.

"The UK is ok for us," he said, although he admitted there was some evidence of money being pushed to the second and third quarters because of the Olympics and Euro 2012 football tournament.

But it was builders and engineers who appeared most dubious about the Office for National Statistics' claims of a 3 per cent contraction in construction.

Mark Clare, chief executive of the housebuilder Barratt, declared: "There is no doubt that the housing industry has seen greater stability in the current market conditions.

"Barratt has been opening new sites on newly acquired land which have been selling well with strong customer demand." Gordon Payne, managing director of Teesside's Darchem Engineering, added: "We've seen substantial growth of between 10 and 15 per cent in the first quarter, much of it driven by exports.

"We need to expand our production facilities."

Peter Duncan, managing director of Cressall Resistors, a maker of industrial power resistors, in Leicester, added: "We had a very good first quarter. The overall trend is still very positive."

Sian Sutherland, the entrepreneur behind the Mama Mio beauty brand, who numbers Selfridges, John Lewis and other department stores as clients, said: "Although our US growth is better than in the UK, we are still seeing good increases in our sales over here."