United Kingdom services PMI falls for first time in four months - Markit

Warnings that Britain is heading for a sharp increase in inflation have intensified after a closely watched business survey showed companies in the services sector grappled with their biggest rise in costs for nearly six years.

The latest Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers' Index survey gave a reading of 54.5 last month.

Businesses raised their staffing levels at the fastest pace for 41 months, while optimism amongst service providers strengthened to a 44-month high, Friday's PMI survey found. Finally, forecasts for output from Japanese services over the coming year were positive in January, as business sentiment strengthened to the strongest rate in nine months.

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On Thursday, the Bank of England revised up its forecast for the United Kingdom economy this year, and now expects it to grow by 2%.

On a less positive note, services companies continue to endure a sharp rate of input cost inflation, with the latest spike in prices attributed to higher staff costs; rises in the costs of fuel and energy; and the euro's weakness against the United States dollar.

"Faster growth of new business and an upturn in confidence about the year ahead to the highest since the region's debt crisis bodes well", said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit. Output prices also continued to rise with the rate of increase unchanged from December's 68-month high.

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The survey echoes a series of recent reports showing confidence in the 19-nation euro economy is improving after growth accelerated at the end of previous year.

But the Bank's 2017 forecast is now higher than those of most private sector economists.

Services account for around two-thirds of Japan's gross domestic product, so expansion in that sector could help overall economic growth. It therefore covers about half the economy, whereas official data on services published with more of a lag covers nearly 80%.

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