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UK business has worst month in more than three years, figures show

By August Graham, PA City Reporter

The British private sector has contracted at its fastest rate since the aftermath of the Brexit referendum as the UK missed its second deadline to leave the EU, according to new figures.

The economy got smaller in November, data from IHS Markit and CIPS shows.

The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for the UK private sector fell to 48.5, the lowest since July 2016, and down from 50 in October.

Anything below 50 is considered a contraction.

It means that British gross domestic product (GDP) is on course to fall by 0.2% in the fourth quarter of the year, and creates a scenario where the Bank of England could start to stimulate the economy, experts say.

The news sent the pound crashing, down 0.47% against the dollar to 1.2844.

This put upward pressure on the exporter-heavy FTSE 100, which often benefits from a drop in sterling. The index rose 101 points to 7339.73.

Chris Williamson, IHS Markit’s chief business economist, said: “The PMI surveys are not only warning that the underlying trend in the economy is deteriorating markedly, but also that the labour market is cooling.

“The big question will be just how long can the Bank of England hold its nerve in keeping policy unchanged.”

The figures are the first time flash numbers have been released for the UK.

These are preliminary figures, a week before the full data is published, leaving room for some improvement.

However, they are unlikely to change dramatically, according to David Madden, an analyst at CMC Markets.

“I would be shocked if we see a drastic improvement on these figures with the final data,” Mr Madden said.

It marks the longest stretch of poor figures in a decade, as companies first build up, then use up their Brexit stockpiles as deadlines come and go.

“The service component, which is 75%-80% of the UK economy, was the lowest since July 2016, the aftermath of the EU referendum,” Mr Madden said.

“It is clear that things are slowing down.”

He added: “At a time when the UK is supposed to be out of the EU, we’re back at the levels we saw after the referendum.”