UK service sector growth slows again in November
The UK service sector grew at its slowest pace in almost two years in November, a survey has indicated.
The Markit/CIPS Services Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to 50.2 last month from October's 50.6.
A reading below 50 indicates a drop in activity, so the November figure adds to fears the economy is on the brink of contracting again.
The report comes ahead of what is expected to be a gloomy Autumn Statement from the chancellor.
George Osborne is due to give his twice-yearly update on the UK economy at lunchtime.
A downgrade of economic growth forecasts for the year is likely to lead to him saying that he will not meet his targets for cutting the gap between income and spending.
Chris Williamson, the chief economist at Markit, which puts together the monthly survey of purchasing managers, said: "The survey adds to worrying signs that the economy faces a renewed slide back into contraction after the temporary growth surge seen in the third quarter."
Markit's new orders index fell below the 50 level for the first time since December 2010, dropping to 49.6 from October's 52.9 as underlying demand remained weak.
"The latest survey is bad news," said Philip Shaw at Investec. "If the survey is accurate, it is quite possible that the economy will have contracted over the fourth quarter."
The services survey includes transport, storage and communication, financial intermediation, business services, personal services, computing and IT, and hotels and restaurants, but does not include the retail sector.