The UK services sector continued to grow strongly last month.

The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) monthly survey showed business activity, new business and employment all recording robust growth, leading to higher optimism.

Its index recorded 57 points in November, identical to the previous month - which had bounced back from the fuel-crisis distorted figure of 55 in September.

This month's figure was also stronger than expectations, with HSBC investment bank forecasting a tally of 56.

On the CIPS scale, a figure above 50 indicates growth while below indicates contraction.

CIPS added that although its data showed growth was strong by the historical standards of its survey, the rate of growth was below peaks seen earlier in the year.

November's growth was helped by a rise in incoming new business, which picked up to its fastest rate for three months, suggesting the damaging effects of September fuel crisis were now over.

The survey showed companies sought to protect margins from rising costs by hiking charges.

Roy Ayliffe, director of professional practice at CIPS, said: "In order to protect their margins against rising costs, service companies had to raise their charges once again in November.

"Meanwhile, purchasing managers battled to minimise the effect of high fuel and general purchase prices."

Output from Britain's manufacturers rose by 0.5 per cent in the last three months.

Figures issued by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) covering the months from August to October, compare to a stronger 0.8 per cent growth recorded last month.

On a month by month basis output fell by 0.1 per cent - lower than expectations.