British state borrowing hits record February high: official

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The British government's borrowing rocketed last month to a record level, official data showed Tuesday, dealing a blow to finance minister George Osborne on the eve of his annual budget.

The state's public sector net borrowing stood at £11.8 billion (13.6 billion euros, $19.3 billion) in February, striking the highest level on record for that month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement.

That easily beat market expectations for £6.9 billion, according to analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires, and compared with net borrowing of £9.5 billion in February 2010.

But Osborne, who presents his annual taxation and spending plans before parliament on Wednesday, will draw some comfort from news that annual borrowing remains on course to undershoot the official government forecast.

For the 2010/2011 financial year to date, which runs until the end of this month, total borrowing now stands at £123.5 billion.

Britain's annual target is for borrowing of £148.5 billion, but this could be revised on Wednesday by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which is the government's independent fiscal watchdog.

"Barring a disaster in March, this still points to an undershoot of the OBR's full year forecast of £148.5 billion," noted Capital Economics analyst Jonathan Loynes.

© 2011 AFP

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