Fall in output at factories sparks fears of slowdown
UK factories suffered an unexpected drop in output during February, marking the first fall for nearly a year and fuelling fears of a slowdown in the wider economy.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that manufacturing output dropped 0.2% month on month in February, while a downward revision to previous data showed it also stagnated in January.
Official figures also revealed another sharp drop in the construction sector, with output down by 1.6% month on month in February and 3% lower than a year earlier, marking the largest annual fall since March 2013.
Experts said the data added to signs that the economy suffered in a snow-hit start to the year, with growth likely to have slowed from the 0.4% seen at the end of 2017.
Howard Archer, chief economic adviser at the EY Item Club, said the ONS data "fuels suspicion that GDP growth likely slowed to 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in the first quarter - especially as survey evidence points to economic activity suffering a marked hit in March from the severe weather".
While manufacturing has shown little direct hit from the snow in February and March, recent industry surveys have pointed to a marked impact on the powerhouse services sector as retail sales suffered, as well as construction work.