By Daniel Hunter
Official figures show that the UK goods trade deficit shrank to its smallest amount in almost a year in June.
A rise in exports was a major contributing factor as the gap between imports and exports narrowed to £8.1 billion in June, down from £8.7 billion in May.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS), who released the figures, said construction output grew more in the second quarter of the year than it had first estimated. The data rounds off a week of positive economic news.
The trade gap in goods with non-EU countries fell sharply from £4 billion in May to £2.6 billion in June, well below forecasts of a £3.8 billion deficit.
UK manufacturers have been urged to trade with countries outside Europe - which have been growing far more quickly in recent years - rather than with those in the eurozone, where growth is much weaker.
"This positive trade data supports our view that the manufacturing sector will gain momentum and will be a source of growth for the UK economy over the coming years," said Rachel Pettigrew, senior economist at the EEF manufacturers' organisation.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said the fall in the trade gap was "welcome", but added that the deficit was "still too large".
"We aren't making enough progress in rebalancing our economy towards net exports," said David Kern, chief economist at the BCC.
"Our recent surveys reveal huge untapped potential among British exporters, especially in the service sector, and unleashing this potential will help to secure a sustainable recovery."
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