British trade deficit narrows as exports strike fresh record
Britain's trade deficit shrank by more than expected in February as exports hit a record high for a second straight month, official data showed Tuesday, sparking hopes of a return to economic growth.
The deficit -- the difference between goods exported and imported -- shrank to £6.8 billion (7.6 billion euros, $11.0 billion) in February, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement.
That was the lowest level since February 2010 and compared with forecasts for a larger deficit of £7.8 billion, according to analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires.
The February reading compared with an upgraded deficit also of £7.8 billion in January.
"The unexpected further narrowing of the trade deficit in February is a boost for hopes that net trade will make a very decent contribution to GDP growth in the first quarter of 2011," said economist Howard Archer at the IHS Global Insight consultancy.
Exports jumped 1.3 percent to hit £25.1 billion in February, reaching the highest level since records began in 1980. The ONS added that imports fell 2.2 percent to £31.9 billion.
Britain's economy shrank 0.5 percent in the final quarter of 2010, recent official data showed, but many analysts predict a choppy recovery due to the government's austerity drive.
© 2011 AFP