UK December industrial output tops forecast after weak quarter

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February 7, 2013 8:42 PM EST

British industrial output rose more than expected in December, although oil field shutdowns drove the biggest quarterly fall since early 2009, data showed on Thursday.

Within that, manufacturing output climbed 1.6 percent on the month in December after a fall of 0.3 percent in November, the Office for National Statistics said.

Industrial output, which includes energy production and mining, grew 1.1 percent after a revised 0.2 percent monthly rise in November.

Economists had predicted a monthly rise of 0.9 percent in industrial production and a 0.8 percent tick-up in manufacturing output.

Industrial production was 1.9 percent lower in the fourth quarter of 2012 than in the previous three months, the biggest fall since the first quarter of 2009.

That was a slightly bigger decline than originally shown in the GDP figures, although the ONS said the latest number would have a negligible impact on its first GDP estimate.

In the last quarter of 2012, lower factory output was a key reason for a contraction in Britain's economy that brought it within sight of its third recession in four years.

Despite that risk, analysts do not expect the Bank of England to announce an extension to its programme of asset purchases later on Thursday, when it delivers its monthly policy decision.

There have been some tentative signs of an economic recovery at the start of this year, while policymakers also increasingly doubt the ability of more quantitative easing to lift demand.

Separate ONS data released on Thursday showed that Britain's goods trade deficit narrowed in December as forecast.

The goods trade deficit shrank to 8.897 billion pounds from 9.275 billion pounds in November. Economists had forecast a gap of 8.93 billion pounds.

(Reporting by Olesya Dmitracova and Patrick Graham)

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