Building still drifting after the snow falls

 

Britain’s builders struggled to shake off the winter blues in January as activity sank for the third month in a row, the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply warned today.

The impact of snow across much of the country and another month of falling new business left the CIPS activity index unchanged at 48.7, below the 50 no-change mark. But sentiment improved, partly fuelled by optimism over the unveiling of plans for the second phase of the £33 billion High Speed 2 rail link.

Chief executive David Noble said: “Snow compounded difficult economic conditions to ensure the construction sector’s winter blues continued into January. Yet against expectations, businesses have a spring in their step looking ahead to 2013.

“This new-found confidence has been buoyed by news of public investment, but it could be found wanting, if the Government’s recent rhetoric on major infrastructure projects fails to bear fruit.”

The construction industry stagnated in the final quarter of 2012, according to official figures. Cips said that housebuilding remains in the doldrums and civil engineering saw its first fall in activity for four months although commercial building is holding its own.

Barclays Capital analyst Blerina Uruci said: “We expect construction activity to remain subdued during 2013 as the weakness in new orders is likely to continue.”

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