UK industrial output fell in November

MG6 production line
Image caption The decline in manufacturing output added to concerns of a broader recession in the UK economy

UK industrial output fell 0.6% in November, heightening concern over the strength of the economy.

It followed a downwardly-revised 1% fall in the previous month, and meant output was 3.1% lower than a year ago.

The surprisingly sharp fall announced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) was driven in part by lower energy - especially gas - consumption due to relatively mild weather.

However, manufacturing output was also down in the month, by 0.2%.

Analysts said the data - particularly the dip in manufacturing - added to a picture of a general downturn in the UK economy during the last months of the year.

"A probable sharp decline in industrial production in the fourth quarter obviously fuels concern that the overall economy contracted," said Howard Archer, chief economist at research firm IHS Global Insight.

"Although it needs to be borne in mind that industrial production only accounts for 15.4% of GDP."

Other data has pointed to a decline in domestic demand in the UK economy.

Retailers have reported falling sales, with Tesco - the UK's biggest retailer - warning that it expects to see "minimal" profit growth this year.

Meanwhile, exports - including of financial services provided by the City - have been hit by the eurozone crisis.

"We've been suggesting that the UK will be in recession at the start of this year, but it may have started even earlier," said Philip Shaw, UK economist at fund manager Investec.

"There isn't very much that's performing well in the UK economy."

However, a series of closely-watched surveys released last week suggested conditions had improved in December.

The purchasing managers' index (PMI) for the service sector was "surprisingly buoyant" last month, while the construction sector also grew at a faster pace.

The PMI for manufacturing showed the sector still contracting in December, but at a slower pace than the month before.

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