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UK businesses have reported their weakest growth in nearly six years, in the quarter to February, according to the latest CBI Growth Indicator.
The composite measure – based on 650 respondents across the distribution, manufacturing and service sectors – showed the balance of firms reporting growth stood at -3%, the weakest since April 2013. This marked the fourth consecutive month of no growth in activity, the Confederation of British Industry said over the weekend.
The stagnation in overall volumes reflected falling services volumes and slower manufacturing growth, which were partially offset by a rebound in distribution growth. Within distribution, retail volumes continued to fall, for the fourth consecutive month.
"Economic momentum is ebbing away as consumer confidence weakens and businesses brace themselves for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit. More and more companies are hitting the brakes on investment and day-to-day business decisions are becoming increasingly problematic," Rain Newton-Smith, CBI chief economist, said.
Looking ahead, private sector activity is expected to fall slightly over the three months to May (-4%), with services volumes set to fall at a sharper pace alongside similar manufacturing growth.
"Until politicians can agree a deal that commands a majority in Parliament and protects our economy, growth will continue to suffer and long-term damage will be done. Politicians must steer our country away from the cliff edge to avoid further lost jobs and investment," Mr Newton-Smith explained.
The Bank of England predicts that Britain’s economy will grow by a slim 0.2 per cent in the three months to March, while growth in 2019 is forecast to be the weakest since 2009.