- U.K. construction sector activity expanded at a slower rate than expected in March, dampening optimism over the country’s economic outlook, industry data showed on Wednesday.

In a report, market research firm Markit and the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply said that their U.K. construction purchasing managers'' index fell to a seasonally adjusted 62.5 last month from a reading of 62.6 in February.

Economists had expected the index to rise to 63.0 in March.

Reports of improving underlying demand and more favorable business conditions helped business optimism reach its highest level since January 2007.

Commenting on the report, senior economist at Markit David Noble said, “As the rain gave way to sun, the housing market reclaimed its spot as the star performer. Commercial activity continued to rise strongly, benefitting from the positive business conditions.”

Following the release of the data, the pound held on to gains against the U.S. dollar, with GBP/USD rising 0.15% to trade at 1.6653.

Meanwhile, European stock markets remained higher. London’s FTSE 100 advanced 0.15%, the Euro Stoxx 50 picked up 0.35%, France’s CAC 40 rose 0.1%, while Germany''s DAX tacked on 0.4%.

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