UK MANUFACTURING output fell 1.5 per cent in January, the fastest pace since June, adding to fears that the economy made a dismal start to the year.
According to figures out this morning from the Office for National Statistics, the wider reading of industrial output, which includes energy production and mining, fell 1.2 per cent after a 1.1 per cent rise in December.
This was driven partly due to a shutdown of a North Sea oil field that typically accounts for between three to six per cent of Britain's oil production.
Experts had predicted broadly flat readings for both manufacturing and production output.
Weak industrial production was the main drag on Britain's economy in the final three months of 2012, contributing to another fall in GDP.
The sluggish trend may persist. A survey of purchasing managers revealed earlier an unexpected contraction in the manufacturing sector in February, raising the risk that Britain is entering its third recession since the 2008 financial crisis.
However, separate ONS data out today showed a rare improvement in Britain's trade position. The goods trade deficit shrank to £8.195bn in January from £8.738bn in December, versus forecasts for a modest deterioration to £9bn.
On the back of weak data, sterling hit a two and a half year low against the dollar this morning.