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May 11, 2010    

UK industrial output surges in March

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by Kay Murchie
”UK

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) today revealed UK industrial output has experienced its fastest monthly expansion since July 2002.

According to the ONS, output grew by 2% in March compared with February - far exceeding analyst expectations of a 0.3% rise.

On an annual basis, output was also up 2% - the best showing since March 2004.

The figures were boosted by strong export demand.

As a result, the ONS has estimated that today’s figures will add 0.1 percentage points to the UK’s first quarter growth.

The ONS put the initial estimate of first quarter GDP growth at 0.2% - just half analysts’ expectations of 0.4%.

Meanwhile, manufacturing output rose 2.3% in April against March with the annual rate at 3.3%. “This is a really spectacular performance by the manufacturing sector, which is a real shot in the arm for the economy,” according to Howard Archer, economist at IHS Global Insight.

In related news today, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said activity in the housing market is buoyant, due to the traditional spring pick up.

Rics said in April, 17% more surveyors said prices were going up rather than falling, up from 9% the previous month - which represented an 8-month low.

However, there was some gloomy news on the High Street after the British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported a sharp fall in UK retail sales for the month of April.

According to the BRC, the total value of sales fell by 0.2% in April on an annual basis, while the like-for-like drop was 2.3% – the steepest fall since December 2008.

However, the figures suggest the fall related to the timing of Easter and uncertainty which surrounded the general election.

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