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UK construction returns to growth, but maybe not for long - PMI

A construction worker moves barriers at a construction site, with the City of London financial district seen behind

LONDON (Reuters) - Activity among British construction companies improved unexpectedly last month, although the outlook darkened as growth in new orders dried up, a survey showed on Thursday.

The S&P Global/CIPS construction Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to 52.3 in September from 49.2 in August and was above the 50 threshold for growth for the first time since June.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a fall to 48.0.

"UK construction companies experienced a modest increase in business activity during September, but the return to growth was fuelled by delayed projects and easing supply shortages rather than a flurry of new orders," Tim Moore, economics director at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said.

New orders showed the weakest growth since May 2020, shortly after the coronavirus pandemic hammered Europe, and concerns about rising interest rates, the energy crisis and recession risks hit confidence, he said.

Price pressures were their weakest since February 2021, a potential silver lining for the Bank of England as it monitors the impact of inflation in the broader economy.

The all-sector PMI, which includes data for the services and manufacturing sectors released in recent days, fell to 49.4 from 49.6 in September, its lowest since January 2021.

(Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by William Schomberg and Hugh Lawson)