11192017

UK industrial output jumps in September

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The UK’s industrial output grew at its fastest pace so far this year in September, according to official figures.

Production rose by 0.7% compared with the month before, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, boosted by machinery and equipment output.

Separate data showed the UK’s trade deficit in goods and services narrowed by more than expected in September.

However, construction output fell by 1.6% in the month, the ONS said.

‘Mixed’ outlook

The increase in industrial production was better than analysts’ forecasts, and the fastest growth seen since December last year.

Manufacturing output – a subset of industrial output – also rose by 0.7% in September.

“Industrial production has risen for six consecutive months, a feat last achieved 23 years ago,” said Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

However, he added that the recovery in manufacturing output could be hit by recent rises in the oil price.

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club, said the outlook for manufacturing appeared “mixed”.

Domestic conditions looked “challenging despite recent decent demand”, he said.

“Increased prices for capital goods and big-ticket consumer durable goods, weakened consumer purchasing power, and economic and political uncertainty threaten to hamper manufacturers.

“On the export side, a very competitive pound and healthy global demand are helping UK manufacturers competing in foreign markets. The weakened pound also appears to be encouraging some companies to switch to domestic sources for supplies.”

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The UK’s trade deficit in goods and services narrowed by £0.7bn between August and September 2017 to £2.75bn, mainly due to trade in goods exports increasing by £1.3bn.

Despite this, the UK’s trade performance during the third quarter as a whole worsened, according to the ONS data.

In the three months to September 2017, the total UK trade deficit widened by £3bn to £9.5bn, mainly due to a increased imports, including of machinery, non-monetary gold and fuels.

The construction output data was much weaker than expected. As well as the sharp fall in September from August, output was only up 1.1% from a year earlier – the weakest annual rate since March last year.

The ONS said the latest economic data did not suggest there would be any change to its initial estimate that the UK economy grew 0.4% in the third quarter of the year.

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