Economic growth saw a small improvement on January's weak performance in the three months to February, and expectations improved for the coming quarter, according to the latest CBI Growth Indicator.
The survey of 790 respondents across the manufacturing, retail and service sectors showed the pace of growth ticked up marginally in the private sector, with a balance of +8% of firms reporting a rise in output, compared with +6% in January.
Growth in the consumer services sector held up well (+21%), as did growth in retail sales (+11%), despite easing to the slowest pace since July last year. However, activity in the business & professional services sector remained flat (+1%) for a second consecutive month in February, the weakest spell since early 2013, while manufacturing saw a levelling off in output (0%) following two months of declines.
The outlook for the next three months rose to a strong, above average, showing (+19%).
Rain Newton-Smith, CBI Director of Economics, said: "The British economy has made a slow start to the year, and growth has remained in the doldrums in February. It's encouraging that growth in consumer services has held up and manufacturing output has stopped declining, but retailers and business and professional services firms are feeling the pinch.
"With global risks increasing this year following the volatility seen in financial markets, businesses will be keeping a close eye on any possible impact on domestic activity.
"It's important that the Budget later this month gives business a clear signal that the Government stands behind it in driving growth, by bringing the UK's business rates system up to date, supporting investment through the capital allowance system and equipping our world-class innovators with the tools they need to compete."