UK trade deficit narrows in April

Workman welding goods in the UK

The UK trade deficit narrowed to £1.2bn in April from £3.1bn in March, the Office for National Statistics said.

An £8.6bn deficit on goods was partially offset by an estimated surplus of £7.4bn on services, it said.

The ONS added that in the quarter to April, exports were flat after 0.3% growth in the first quarter, but imports were up 2.1%, the same as in the three months to March.

UK exporters have struggled in the face of weak demand in the eurozone.

Part of the deficit dip was down to a fall in imports of art and furniture, said the ONS. Another factor was less oil being imported.

Last year, companies began stockpiling oil as the price of the commodity collapsed.

‘Longer-term trend’

The deficit – a description of how much imports exceed exports by value – was less than economists had expected.

“Monthly trade figures are notoriously volatile but today’s significant improvement is nonetheless very welcome, but there is no room for any complacency,” said David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce.

“The longer-term trend still shows a worsening in the trade position in recent months. It is clear that we are not making enough, sustained, progress in closing the trade gap.”

The UK’s trade deficit for 2014 widened to £34.8bn, the biggest gap since 2010.

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