LONDON: Output from Britain’s factories and chemical plants grew at the fastest rate since 2010 in the three months to the end of January, according to the Office for National Statistics. The rate of growth in manufacturing climbed to 2.1 per cent, compared with the previous three-month period. The quarterly rise came despite a 0.4 per cent contraction in total industrial production in January itself, due in part to a 14 per cent decline in the volatile pharmaceuticals industry, which grew 9.9 per cent in the three months to January.
The ONS published the production figures alongside a series of short-term economic indicators showing that UK economic activity was broadly flat in January, indicating a slight loss of momentum after two months of growth in exports and manufacturing at the end of last year. Economists said the flat performance in January was due to volatility in specific sectors, rather than a broad decline in activity. “Looking underneath the headline statistics reveals the contraction was almost exclusively driven by erratic swings in pharmaceuticals output, something that’s becoming a regular feature in the production figures of late,” said Lee Hopley, chief economist at the EEF, a trade body for manufacturers. “Otherwise, the sector looks to be in good shape, with solid improvements across most other sectors, underpinned by continued growth in exports,” she added.