UK Economic Growth 'Of 0.7% In First Quarter'
Closely-watched surveys of UK economic activity suggest GDP growth of 0.7% in the first quarter of 2014 - matching that of the previous three months.
The prediction was announced following the publications of the Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers' Index measures for the construction, manufacturing and service sectors.
While each pointed to expansion, the March readings also charted slowing growth.
The rate of expansion for services in the month - announced on Thursday - was at its slowest since June 2013, Markit said, while growth in new business and optimism also eased.
Nevertheless, the organisation's chief economist Chris Williamson, said the activity readings confirmed over the course of the week were still "very strong," with input costs continuing to fall.
He added: "The drop in price pressures, alongside the more moderate pace of growth, takes pressure off the Bank of England to start tightening policy, which should in turn take some pressure off sterling."
The recent strengthening of the pound has been cited as a core concern among manufacturers particularly as the UK bids to boost exports amid wider efforts to rebalance the economy away from its reliance on consumer spending.
Another factor seen as crucial to securing economic recovery is lending to businesses - which fell off a cliff in the wake of the financial crisis.
A report by the Bank of England - also released on Thursday - showed that lenders expected the availability of business loans to pick up significantly in the second quarter.
Its quarterly Credit Conditions Survey said: "The expansion of availability was reported to be driven by an improvement in the economic outlook and increased appetites for risk on the part of lenders."
Banks - particularly those bailed out by taxpayers - have faced mounting pressure to lend more to support small and medium-sized firms amid a flood of complaints from politicians they are not doing enough to bolster the recovery.
While the lenders have consistently pointed to low demand, bosses accuse them of demanding unacceptable terms attached to loans despite efforts to bring funding costs down.
In January, the Public Accounts Committee of MPs complained that net lending by banks participating in the Funding for Lending scheme had declined by £2.3bn since the scheme was launched.
A report last year even accused RBS of "putting down" viable businesses for profit.
The bank, which is now the subject of a formal probe by the City regulator, announced last autumn that it wanted to increase gross lending to SMEs this year by at least 10% to more than £9bn.