UK services growth at near three-year low
The UK's dominant services sector weakened in February, registering its slowest rate of growth for nearly three years, a survey has indicated.
The latest Markit/CIPS services Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to 52.7 last month, down from January's reading of 55.6.
Any figure above 50 means expansion, but the rise in service sector activity was the weakest since March 2013.
The service sector accounts for more than three-quarters of the UK economy.
Surveys from Markit/CIPS earlier in the week put the manufacturing sector's PMI at 50.8 and construction at 54.2.
"The weaker increase in services activity mainly reflected a slower expansion in the volume of incoming new business," the survey said.
Markit chief economist Chris Williamson added: "Survey responses reveal that firms are worried about signs of faltering demand, but boardrooms have also become unsettled by concerns regarding the increased risk of 'Brexit',
financial market volatility and weak economic growth at home and abroad."
He added that the extent of the slowdown would come as a "shock" to policymakers and would put an end to talk of a possible interest rate rise.
Mr Williamson described February's three PMI readings as "a triple whammy of disappointing survey news".
Commenting on the figures, Jeremy Cook, chief economist at international payments company World First, said: "The May Bank of England meeting had previously been seen as a possible time for a rate hike.
The volatility of global markets and the self-inflicted wound of the EU referendum put paid to that months ago.
"We still believe, however, that some measures that foresee the Bank of England holding rates at 0.5% until 2020 are little short of absurd."