Economy: Recovery 'Better Than Forecast'
The cautious outlook for UK economic growth is being challenged as closely-watched indicators show a burst of activity.
A rush of new business last month drove the service sector, which makes up 75% of UK output, to its fastest growth rate for more than six years, according to the Markit/CIPS purchasing managers' index (PMI).
The reading was at its highest since December 2006 - beating economic forecasts.
Earlier PMI surveys this week covering the construction and manufacturing sectors also came in above expectations.
The services survey found order books at companies ranging from banks to restaurants filled at the fastest pace since May 1997, the month Tony Blair became prime minister.
A separate report by Visa Europe backed up the findings.
Its UK Expenditure Index showed that last month saw the strongest monthly increase in consumer spending for nearly a year, benefiting retailers on the high-street - with year-on-year spending also rising in August both online and on the high street.
Like the previous month, the PMI showed British businesses were at the forefront of Europe's nascent economic recovery, outpacing major eurozone peers that are still grappling for momentum.
On Tuesday, the OECD raised its 2013 growth forecast for Britain from 0.8% to 1.5% - more than double the rate expected from Germany.
Responding to the PMI data, the chief UK economist at Deutsche Bank George Buckley said: "I wouldn't be surprised to see growth double what the Bank of England is expecting for (this) quarter, because they're currently forecasting 0.6%."
While such a prediction would be welcome news for the Government after roughly three years of stagnation, the data may give Bank governor Mark Carney pause for thought.
He has stressed the economy may need more help from the central bank to nurse it back to health, and the bank does not plan to raise the base rate of interest until unemployment falls to 7%.
It means that under the bank's forward guidance initiative, it does not currently forecast the base rate rising for another three years.
The services PMI added weight to the bank's expectations on the unemployment rate when it found that firms' hiring slowed to its weakest pace so far this year.