UK services firms hit new export high in Q1 - BCC survey

LONDON, April 8 Mon Apr 7, 2014 7:01pm EDT

LONDON, April 8 (Reuters) - British services firms reported the fastest growth in exports on record in the first quarter of 2014 and manufacturers also got off to a strong start to the year, a survey showed on Tuesday.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said its quarterly economic survey suggested the pace of economic recovery would continue in the short term.

But more needed to be done to make sure companies had access to finance in the future, the BCC said in a statement.

Britain's economy staged a major turnaround in 2013, surprising even the government, although it remains smaller than before the financial crisis.

The BCC said measures of growth in export sales and orders between January and March hit their highest levels since the survey was launched in 1989 and six key manufacturing balances, including investment plans, were also at all-time highs.

The findings will be a boost for finance minister George Osborne, who has been trying to promote exports and manufacturing ever since the government took office in 2010 and is on a trade mission to Brazil this week.

"The results of our survey suggest that growth is strengthening in the short-term, and support our recent forecasts that the economic recovery is moving at a solid pace," said BCC chief economist David Kern. "But challenges persist and despite this progress, the recovery is not yet secure."

Last month, the lobby group raised slightly its forecasts for British economic growth in 2014 to 2.8 percent this year and 2.5 percent in 2015.

In its survey published on Tuesday, the BCC saw some downsides with the employment growth in the services sector slowing sharply in the first quarter, though firms expect this to pick up again over the coming three months.

Inflation remained the biggest concern for both sectors, even as Britain's consumer price index slowed to 1.7 percent in February, its lowest level in more than four years.

The BCC surveyed almost 7,500 companies between Feb. 24 and March 19 for its poll.

For a table of key findings, click (Editing by Toby Chopra)

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