UK economy still shrinking but pace of decline eases - PMI

FILE PHOTO: Workers clean the pavement in Canary Wharf, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain, May 27, 2020. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s economy remained in a severe downturn in May although the pace of the slump moderated from April’s crash and some companies benefited from the easing of coronavirus lockdowns around the world, a survey showed on Wednesday.

The IHS Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) combining Britain’s huge services sector and manufacturing rose to 30.0 from 13.8 in April, up from a preliminary May reading of 28.9.

The index for services alone was also slightly higher than the preliminary figure but at 29.0 it was the second-weakest on record after April’s crash to 13.4.

Companies lost orders as clients slashed spending.

“Consumer demand also remained very subdued, with large areas of the service economy still in the planning stage of restarting business operations,” Tim Moore, economics director at IHS Markit, said.

Expectations rose modestly for a second month from March’s low. But businesses dealing face-to-face with customers were extremely concerned that social distancing measures would hold them back and push up costs.

On the positive side, some companies saw new orders from the Asia-Pacific region, where the recovery is more advanced, and from new online sales efforts.

But export orders continued to fall and some services firms said they were not taking work from abroad due to severe restrictions on travel.

Britain’s services PMI does not include retailers, who have been hardest hit by store closures since the March 23 lockdown, or many of the self-employed.

Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Catherine Evans