Trade gap widens in March - but still strong

The country's goods trade deficit widened more than expected in March, giving back some of the strong improvement seen in the first two months.

The Office for National Statistics said that the goods trade gap widened to £7.66bn from £6.99bn in February, some way above the £7.25bn (ONS) economists had expected.

The total trade deficit, which includes services where Britain is traditionally stronger, also widened on the month.

However, on a quarterly basis, the total trade deficit fell to its lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2009, suggesting net trade still made a decent contribution to first-quarter growth.

On the quarter, exports grew 4.2 per cent while imports slipped 0.6 per cent.

The improvement in the underlying trend will provide some relief to policymakers who have pinned their hoped of economic recovery on the country exporting more at a time of weak domestic demand.