By Jonathan Davies

Growth in the UK's manufacturing sector picked up slightly in May, but not as much as expected, according to a closely watched survey.

The Markit/CIPS manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) hit 52 in May, up from 51.8 in April. Any figure above 50 indicates growth, but analysts had forecast a figure of 52.5 for May.

The figures come after EEF, the engineering and manufacturing body, suggested that growth was slowing down. Lee Hopley, chief economist at the EEF, said "the ground is looking a lot less firm beneath its feet".

Markit said May was the 26th consecutive month in which the manufacturing sector has grown. And manufacturing production rose for 27th month in a row.

Rob Dobson, senior economist at Markit, said: “Expectations of a broad rebound in UK economic growth during the second quarter of the year are called into question by these readings. Manufacturing looks on course to act as a minor drag on the economy, as the sector is hit by a combination of the strong pound and weak business investment spending. The strength of sterling is serving a double-whammy for economic growth by constraining manufacturer’s export performance and also driving a surge in cheap imports."