By Daniel Hunter
Hopes that the UK will avoid a further recession were boosted today (Tuesday) by the news that industrial production rose by more than expected in February.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) industrial production rose by 1% in February compared with January, but was still down 2.2% from a year earlier.
Manufacturing output, which is one of the components of industrial production, rose 0.8% from January. However, trade figures showed that the UK's trade deficit widened in February.
The overall production index was lifted by the biggest rise in the production of electricity and gas since October, helped by the prolonged spell of cold weather.
And all the sectors that are collated to make up the overall industrial production figure - including mining and quarrying, energy supply and waste management - saw an increase in February, the first time this has happened since July last year.
Despite the month-on-month improvement, industrial output is still only at the same level as September last year.
"While many manufacturers are increasing efforts to grow in new markets, another round of weak trade data suggests challenging conditions persist across a number of key markets," Lee Hopley, chief economist at the EEF manufacturers' organisation, said.
"In line with much of the survey data we've seen since the start of the year it looks like industry will struggle to make a positive contribution to overall growth in the first quarter of 2013."
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