Growth in the UK construction sector tumbled to a seven-month low in December, driven by weaker civil engineering and housing activity, a key survey of the sector showed.

The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply said the headline index of construction activity fell to 52.6 in December from 54.2 in November.

The reading is the lowest for seven months but remains above the 50 level which indicates growth in the sector.

"Although experiencing a further improvement in construction sector operating conditions, purchasing managers saw activity growth end the year on a seven-month low," said Roy Ayliffe, director of professional practice at CIPS.

"Housing activity has continued to dwindle - albeit at a slower rate - while civil engineering was the worst performing of the three subsectors in the construction industry."

He said commercial activity was the strongest performer - but even there the rate of growth had eased for the fourth successive month. Overall conditions "remained stable" and optimism about the future was high, driven by strong demand for construction work and capacity expansion plans, Mr Ayliffe noted.