The UK's trade imbalance improved marginally in November, according to official figures published yesterday, reinforcing the belief among most economists that the recession is over.
The improvement is only sluggish, however, and will disappoint those who had hoped the recovery would be led by a spike in exports.
The Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported that the overall deficit in goods and services fell to £2.9bn in November, a £200m improvement on October.
However, the improvement was largely the result of a fall in the volume of imports, rather than growth in exports.
In goods, the deficit shrank to £6.8bn in November, from an adjusted shortfall of £7bn the previous month, while the economy recorded a surplus of £3.9bn in the trade of services.
The figures cast doubt on the Bank of England's GDP growth forecasts of up to 4 per cent by the middle of the year.
Colin Ellis, an economist at Daiwa Securities, said: “While yesterday's figures affirm our view that we had positive growth in the fourth quarter, it is hard to see a strong recovery being led by exports. Even though the Bank's growth predictions would be lovely if they turned out to be true, we would not put money on it.”