Manufacturers enjoy strong growth

Burnley and Pendle Citizen: New manufacturing figures have provided a boost to the UK economic recovery New manufacturing figures have provided a boost to the UK economic recovery

More positive signs on the UK recovery emerged today after figures showed manufacturers enjoyed their best quarter of growth since 1999.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said factory output rose by 0.5% on the previous month in March, while the figure for the first quarter of 2014 was 1.4% stronger than the previous three months - the best result in 15 years.

The agency also said the UK's trade deficit narrowed from £1.7 billion to £1.3 billion in March, driven by a sharp increase in the value of exports.

The latest figures will offer more encouragement that the UK economic recovery is being driven by more than just a surge in consumer spending.

The volume of exports rose by 5.9%, while in value terms the figure lifted 4.9% to £24.6 billion due to an increase in exports of jewellery and cars.

Today's manufacturing figures beat City expectations but are unlikely to be sufficient to cause a revision to ONS estimates that overall GDP grew by 0.8% in the first quarter.

And as monthly trade figures are erratic, the British Chambers of Commerce also warned that the first quarter of 2014 showed only a marginal narrowing in the deficit compared with the previous quarter.

Its chief economist David Kern said the pace of change was still painfully slow.

He added: "We need to encourage our existing exporters into new markets, help other businesses export for the first time, and ensure that support for export, both at home and around the world, is resourced for the long term."

The Bank of England is due to publish its latest forecasts for economic output and inflation in a quarterly economic report on Wednesday.

Markit chief economist Chris Williamson said the Bank is unlikely to increase interest rates just yet, although rising wage pressures may ring alarm bells.

He added: " Policymakers will continue to tolerate the strong recoveries being seen in sectors such as manufacturing and construction without hiking interest rates, providing inflation remains low."

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