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UK industry shines but Brexit still looms over economy

Reuters  |  LONDON 

By Andy Bruce

(Reuters) - British industry had its strongest month so far this year in September and the trade deficit narrowed, offering some positive signs for an that faces a potentially difficult 2018 as Brexit approaches.

The figures published on Friday suggested manufacturing may go some way towards counteracting a consumer-led slowdown and offered some vindication to the Bank of England which last week raised interest rates for the first time in more than 10 years.

Sterling edged up to a day's high against the dollar after the data.

"Stronger global growth and the effect of the weaker pound seems to be finally showing through in the manufacturing numbers," said ING economist James Smith.

But the Office for National Statistics also announced a 1.6 percent monthly drop in construction, while separate figures published on Friday showed British shops suffered their worst October for sales in a decade.

"Given that manufacturing represents a relatively small share of the economy, the persistent weakness in consumer spending is a bigger consideration for the Bank of England," Smith said.

Most economists polled by think Britain's will slow next year, in large part due to uncertainty created by a lack of progress in talks on the terms of Britain's divorce from the European Union.

NO CHANGE TO GDP VIEW

The ONS said the data for September did not imply any change to its preliminary estimate of growth of 0.4 percent in the third quarter, picking up a bit from earlier in 2017 but still slower than the rate in the euro zone.

Industrial and manufacturing output shot up by a monthly 0.7 percent in September, the fastest growth for each sector since December last year and above all forecasts in a poll of economists, which pointed to a reading of 0.3 percent for both.

Industrial output, which includes manufacturing, accounts for 14 percent of Britain's economic output.

Figures for the much bigger services sector are due on Nov. 23.

For the third quarter as a whole, there was little change to estimates for industrial, manufacturing and construction output that appeared in the ONS' preliminary economic growth estimate.

A private-sector business survey last week showed British manufacturing grew robustly in October but also suffered rising inflation pressure. [GB/PMIM]

Until now, the official readings of manufacturing have tended to show a weaker picture for the sector than the surveys over 2017.

Separately, the ONS said Britain's goods trade deficit narrowed by much more than expected to 11.253 billion pounds in September from 12.350 billion, helped by a rise in exports. Economists polled by had expected 12.8 billion.

That was not enough to prevent a deterioration in Britain's trade performance in the third quarter, however, which looks likely to be a sizeable drag on economic growth.

Samuel Tombs, an economist with Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the narrowing of the deficit in September almost entirely reflected an improvement in trade in erratic items.

Until now, there has been little sign of any big boost to British exports from the sharp fall in the value of the pound that followed last year's Brexit vote.

(editing by John Stonestreet)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, November 10 2017. 16:42 IST
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