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Some ray of hope for British production

BRITISH manufacturing output suffered its smallest monthly fall in more than a year in March, pointing to a possible end in sight for the sector's contraction after the worst calendar quarter since records began.

Along with news of a jump in British retail sales and a slowdown in house price falls, yesterday's data revived hopes Britain may have passed the worst of the slump.

Official data also showed a smaller-than-expected monthly drop in the broader industrial production measure, which includes natural resources and power generation, and the narrowest goods trade gap in two years.

"This continues the theme of economic recovery," said George Buckley, UK economist at Deutsche Bank. "While output is still falling, it may not be long until we see a return to growth."

Manufacturing, accounting for just more than 14 percent of British economic output, fell by a much smaller than expected 0.1 percent in March, against analysts' forecasts for a 0.8 percent drop, the slowest rate since February last year.

The Office for National Statistics also revised February's figures to show a 0.3 percent dip, one-third of an earlier estimate of a 0.9 percent fall.

Nonetheless, on a calendar quarter basis this still adds up to the worst slump in manufacturing output that Britain has seen since records began in 1948, with the sector contracting by 5.5 percent in the first three months of the year. Year-on-year, manufacturing shrank by 12.9 percent.

Industrial production declined 0.6 percent in March, less than the 0.8 percent forecast, and February's drop was scaled back to 0.7 percent from 1 percent.


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