British industrial output suffered a shock fall in January, raising doubts about whether the economy will rebound after contracting at the end of 2011.
The Office for National Statistics said that industrial output fell 0.4 per cent in January after a 0.4 percent rise in December, confounding economists' forecasts for a 0.3 per cent rise.
The figures contrast with a recent strengthening in business surveys and may revive fears that Britain is heading for a double-dip recession, placing extra pressure on the Bank of England and the government to provide stimulus to boost demand.
The fall was driven by a sharp drop in oil and gas extraction and by a smaller-than-expected rise in factory output.
Factory output rose by just 0.1 per cent, well below forecasts a 0.3 per cent rise.