U.K. manufacturing shrank for the first time in 11 months in February, led by output of machinery and equipment.
Factory production declined 0.2 percent from January, when output was unchanged, the Office for National Statistics said Wednesday. Overall industrial production rose a smaller-than-forecast 0.1 percent as below-average temperatures boosted demand for energy.
It brings to an end an unprecedented run for manufacturers that has helped to underpin the economy as the squeeze from rising prices takes its toll on consumer spending.
Seven out of 13 manufacturing sectors saw output decline in February, with machinery and equipment dropping 3.9 percent after a strong January. In the latest three months, factory output rose 0.6 percent, the least since July.
There was no evidence that the “Beast from the East’’ snowstorm affected production in February, the ONS said, though the freeze that engulfed the country only began late in the month. It may, however, have contributed to a 1.6 percent decline in construction output during the month.
The decline in construction was driven by infrastructure, private industrial work and repairs. It followed a 3.1 percent drop in January, when work was halted at a number of sites following the collapse of contractor Carillion Plc.
The figures suggests the first three months of 2018 displayed a similar pattern to the end of 2017, with industrial output increasing and building work shrinking for a second consecutive quarter.
Growth may get a boost from trade after the deficit in goods and services narrowed much more than forecast to 965 million pounds ($1.37 billion) in February.
A fall in the value of exports was more than offset by an even greater decline in imports, much of it due to machinery and transport equipment and fuel.
The first-quarter shortfall will come in below the 7.6 billion pounds posted in the fourth quarter if March sees a deficit of less than 3.7 billion pounds.