January’s output was down 0.4 per cent on December’s, the biggest monthly drop since August 2008. City analysts – wrong, as usual – had expected a rise of 0.3 per cent. Manufacturing output fell by 0.9 per cent. In 2009 as a whole, our economy shrank by 4.8 per cent, the worst fall since 1921.
The Office for National Statistics said that January’s cold weather may be to blame, but the cold didn’t stop Germany’s manufacturing output from rising by 0.9 per cent or France’s from rising by 0.8 per cent.
January’s trade gap with the rest of the world widened “unexpectedly” – it’s always unexpected, every single month – up to £3.8 billion from December’s £2.6 billion. Exports fell more sharply than at any time in the last three years. The trade gap in physical goods widened to £7.99 billion, well above the £7 billion that the City boys had forecast.
This is despite the 24 per cent fall in the value of the pound since early 2007, which should have boosted sales overseas. But what little remains of our industry has used the weaker pound to increase their profit margins, not their production and sales.