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The UK’s industrial output grew by much less than expected during April, according to the latest data published by the Office for National Statistics on Friday.
Analysts had expected industrial production to grow 0.7 per cent compared with the previous month but it only grew 0.2 per cent. This was partly because of an increase in energy production which fell in March because of unseasonably warm weather.
Total industrial output was 1.2 per cent lower during the three months to the end of April compared with the previous quarter. This was because of a record 11.9 per cent fall in pharmaceutical output. However, this is highly volatile. Energy production was also down 5.8 per cent.
Construction output fell 0.6 per cent between the three months to January and three months to April. On a month-on-month basis output fell 1.6 per cent, the ONS found.
The official data follow PMI surveys of purchasing manufacturers in both the construction and manufacturing industries, which found that output declined in May and suggests that the UK economy has not regained any momentum in the second quarter of the year after economic growth more than halved in the first three months of the 2017.
The UK’s trade deficit narrowed in April, as imports fell from highs in March. This means the trade deficit shrank from £3.9bn in March to £2.1bn in April, its lowest level for five months.
During the previous month, increased imports in March deepened the trade deficit to its widest since October 2016, with the total value of imports dropping from £53.7bn in March to £51.9bn in April.
However, taking account of so-called erratics — high value commodities like gold and precious stones, and big-ticket items such as ships and aeroplanes which can skew the readings — the narrowing in April was less pronounced.
While the trade value deficit fell from £12.6bn in March to £10.9bn in April, the latest reading is still greater than the £10.7bn gap in February.
Separately, the NIESR think-tank reported on Friday that UK economic output grew 0.2 per cent in the three months to May, below its long run trend of 0.6 per cent.
James Warren, research fellow at the NIESR, said that weakness in the production sector muted GDP growth, although this was offset by a “mild rebound in services”.