Services show a return to growth

The corrugated economy continues.

The third of the UK PMIs has come in today (After construction fell and manufacturing rose), and the service sector is also seeing a return to growth, with the index recording a level of 51.5 (where 50 is equal to no change).

Markit economics, which produces the index, writes:

A return to growth of the UK service sector was signalled at the start of 2013 as volumes of incoming new business increased and companies boosted capacity by adding to their payrolls.

Confidence in the future also strengthened, reaching an eight-month high, but margins continued to be squeezed as output charges rose at a considerably slower rate than input costs.

Combined with the other PMIs, the picture remains far from rosy, but at least the UK appears to be stagnating rather than actively shrinking. It fits with the view of the economy becoming corrugated — flipping from mild growth to mild contraction with the overriding trend being stagnating. The all-sectors PMI, which aggregates the information in the previous releases, ought to confirm that tomorrow.

With services the most important sector of the UK economy — for better or worse — the return to growth is a "huge sigh of relief" according to Markit's chief economist Chris Williamson:

Stronger growth would inevitably have been recorded had the country not suffered the heavy snowfall, suggesting the underlying trend is even stronger than these numbers indicate.

With services companies’ confidence also picking up, new business rising for the first time in three months and hiring growing at the fastest rate for six months, the sector looks to be on a renewed upswing which should help the economy grow again in the first quarter.

Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Telegraph rebrands shadow cabinet member Diane Abbott MP “Corbyn’s former lover”

Shadow international development secretary in demotion by rightwing newspaper SHOCK.

Diane Abbott is a Labour MP, and has been since 1987. She is now in the shadow cabinet, as shadow international development secretary. She's a pretty senior politician, all told. But this hasn't stopped the Telegraph choosing to describe her as "Corbyn's former lover". In a story that has nothing to do with the Labour leader, or the MP's past relationship with him.

In fact, there's no sex in this story at all. It's about a traffic scheme.

Here's how they promoted it on Twitter:

And here's the first line of the piece:

General sexism in reporting aside, your mole can't help thinking there were other traffic concerns at play when this piece was written...

I'm a mole, innit.