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UK construction's crash eases only partially in May: PMI

General view of a tree as the sun rises in Hemel Hempstead

LONDON (Reuters) - The unprecedented slump in Britain's construction industry caused by the coronavirus lockdown eased only partially in May, according to a survey that showed that building companies remained downbeat about their future.

The IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction PMI rose to 28.9 from April's record low of 8.2, still a long way below the 50 dividing line for growth and the third-worst reading in the survey's 23-year history.

A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to a slightly stronger reading of 29.7.

"A gradual restart of work on site helped to alleviate the downturn in total UK construction output during May, but the latest survey highlighted that ongoing business closures and disruptions across the supply chain held back the extent of recovery," Tim Moore, economics director at IHS Markit, said.

Business expectations in the construction sector were still in the red, in contrast with manufacturing and services companies who are already looking forward to better times, the report showed.

"Survey respondents often commented on the cancellation of new projects and cited concerns that clients would scale back spending through the second half of 2020, especially in areas most exposed to a prolonged economic downturn," Moore said.

The all-sector PMI, which combines Britain's construction survey with those for the manufacturing and services sector published earlier this week, rose to 29.9 in May from 13.4 in April.


(Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by William Schomberg)