Heavy snow slowed activity in Europe's dominant service industry last month but with growth still relatively strong, policy expectations for the European Central Bank and Bank of England are unlikely to change.

Businesses across the euro zone ended the first quarter with their weakest expansion since the start of 2017 as bad weather and a strong currency combined to curb growth in new orders, a business survey showed today.

It was a similar story in Britain, where a sister survey said the Siberian weather system meteorologists called "the Beast from the East" weighed on services, which expanded at the slowest rate since just after the vote to leave the European Union in June 2016.

Survey compiler IHS Markit said the PMIs pointed to a solid first quarter growth rate of 0.6% in the euro zone, but only half that in Britain, which is due to leave the EU in just under a year's time.

But the ECB will probably decide this summer to slash its bond purchases if things develop as expected, policymaker Ewald Nowotny said last week.

The BoE is widely expected to raise interest rates next month for only the second time since the global financial crisis a decade ago.

"The ECB is pretty much set on its course anyway. The Bank of England is a little more interesting in the sense that the rate decision is a bit more imminent," said Peter Dixon at Commerzbank.

"But the general perception is that this all appears to be more of a weather-related effect and as a consequence we can look through."

The BoE sees British inflation as running too high. Even though it is below target in the euro zone, the ECB is looking to wind down its huge stimulus programme in coming months.

Euro zone inflation rose to 1.4% as anticipated last month, preliminary official data showed yesterday, still some distance from the ECB's 2% target ceiling.

In Britain, where sterling's fall since the Brexit vote has driven inflation up, prices rose a slower than expected 2.7% annually in February - though considerably above the central bank's 2% target.

The BoE kept interest rates steady last month but two policymakers unexpectedly voted for a hike, reinforcing the view among economists that borrowing costs will rise in May.