By Marcus Leach

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have confirmed that the UK economy expanded by 0.5% for the first three months of 2011.

The ONS data also revealed that consumer spending for the same period was down by 0.6%, which is the biggest single fall in over two years.

In this, the third release of data, construction output was revised upward, only to be cancelled out by a downward revision for manufacturing.

"There is nothing that is too surprising [in these figures]," Philip Shaw, an analyst at Investec, told the BBC.

Mr Shaw also added that these figures will almost certainly mean the Bank of England will once again keep interest rates at 0.5% when they next meet.

“The outlook for the economy remains uncertain," added the British Chambers of Commerce's Chief Economist, David Kern. "While we expect GDP growth in the second quarter of the year to remain in positive territory, the pace of expansion is likely to be slow for some time. We are starting to feel the effects of the government’s austerity measures, and lost working days in April could also have dampened economic activity.

"With consumers feeling the pressure, it is clear that Britain’s future growth depends on a strong rebalancing towards exports and investment. There are signs that this is happening, but the government must reinforce these trends by empowering private sector firms to create jobs and growth.”


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