Britain's service sector grew last month at its slowest pace in nearly two years as new orders fell, a survey showed yesterday, adding to fears the economy was contracting again.
The Markit/Cips Services Purchasing Managers' Index fell to 50.2 from October's 50.6, confounding expectations for a rise to 51.1.
"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," said Chris Williamson, the chief economist at Markit.
The new orders index also sank to 49.6 from October's 52.9 as underlying demand remained weak. It was the first time the index has been below 50 since the country ground to a halt in December 2010. Reflecting the gloomy outlook and the subdued conditions, firms' confidence fell to an 11-month low.
"An imminent upturn also looks unlikely," Mr Williamson said.