Trade deficit narrows as exports hit record high

LONDON Fri Dec 9, 2011 9:32am GMT

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's trade deficit narrowed at its fastest pace since records began in October, as the value of exports hit a record high, official data showed on Friday.

The figures provide a glimmer of hope for Britain's flagging economy, but are unlikely to alter expectations that the Bank of England will have to inject more stimulus to support growth.

The Office for National Statistics said Britain's goods trade deficit narrowed to 7.557 billion pounds in October from a record 10.175 billion pounds in September. That was the biggest monthly fall in the deficit on record, and beat economists' forecasts for a reading of 9.4 billion pounds.

The goods trade gap with non-EU countries also narrowed to 4.554 billion pounds in October from 5.712 billion pounds in September and against forecasts for a deficit of 5.5 billion pounds.

Separate figures showing producer output prices eased as expected in November will likely reassure policymakers that inflation pressures are easing.

The Office for National Statistics said producer output prices rose by 5.4 percent on the year, down from 5.7 percent in October, in line with forecasts.

Input prices were 13.4 percent higher on the year, compared with 14.3 percent in October and against forecasts for an annual rate of 13.2 percent.

The Bank on Thursday voted to keep on with the 75 billion pound quantitative easing programme it relaunched in October, but most analysts expect it will inject more stimulus in February when that runs out, to shore up a rapidly slowing economy.

The central bank expects consumer price inflation to fall back sharply next year from the current 5 percent, with weak growth likely to push it below its 2 percent target over the next 18 months.

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