Winter freeze sees jump in energy supply

Julian Harris
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INDUSTRIAL production jumped by half a per cent in December, fuelled by a surge in energy supply as households cranked up the heating, official data showed yesterday.

Spikes in the supply of electricity (up 12.3 per cent) and gas (up 10.3 per cent) drove up the UK’s index of production, recorded by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Yet there was surprisingly bad news from British factories, as manufacturing fell by 0.1 per cent compared to November.

Some observers blamed the surprise drop on December’s freezing conditions, although the ONS reported only “a small amount of anecdotal evidence” for the effect of snow.

However, underlying growth in manufacturing remains strong. In the fourth quarter of the year, manufacturing was up 1.1 per cent compared to the previous three months.

The ONS recommends observing this measure to remove inherent volatility in the monthly figures.
On this three monthly comparison, over industrial production – which includes mining and energy, as well as factory activity – was up 0.7 per cent.

For 2010 as a whole, British industry grew by two per cent, driven by manufacturing’s expansion of 3.6 per cent.

“The prospective weather-related bounce-back, together with additional strong business survey readings, suggests there might be a sizable jump in manufacturing output in January,” predicted Blerina Uruci of Barclays Capital.