UK trade gap falls to the smallest since 2003

Cargo containers being moved at a port
Image caption The UK's trade deficit shrank in December to its smallest in eight years

The UK's deficit on seasonally adjusted trade in goods and services was £1.1bn in December.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that compared with a deficit of £2.8bn in November.

This is the smallest deficit since April 2003, when the deficit in trade in goods and services was £0.9bn.

Meanwhile, industrial output recovered by more than forecast in December, easing fears the UK is heading for more negative growth.

Industrial production, which accounts for about 15% of the economy, grew by 0.5% in the month, against forecasts of a 0.2% rise.

'Strong rebound'

Prices for both exports and imports fell in the month, with export prices dropping 0.9% and import prices falling by 1.3%.

The deficit on seasonally adjusted trade in goods was £7.1bn in December, compared with an £8.9bn gap in November.

The surplus on seasonally adjusted trade in services was estimated at £6bn in December, compared with the surplus of £6.1bn in November.

Excluding oil and erratic items, the seasonally adjusted volume of exports was 0.4% lower, and the volume of imports was 3.6% lower in December, compared with November.

Lee Hopley, chief economist at EEF, the manufacturers' organisation, said both figures were encouraging.

"December's production figures show the fourth quarter wasn't a complete write-off, with the strong rebound in manufacturing output hopefully providing a solid platform for continued recovery in the first quarter," he said.

"Overall goods exports reached a record level at the end of last year, making some headway into the overall trade deficit and pointing to encouraging signs of rebalancing across the economy."

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