The gap between goods exported and imported in the UK widened by more than expected in November, official figures showed, underlining the fragile state of the economy at the end of last year.
The increase was driven by a rise in imports and a drop in exports, which was surprisingly caused by a fall in orders to non-European Union countries, such as India, as EU exports continued to increase.
The trade in goods deficit increased to £8.6bn in November, compared with £7.9bn in October, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. The City had expected a deficit of £8.3bn.
Exports dropped 1.5 per cent to £25.7bn, driven by a £300m fall in silver sales to countries outside the EU, the ONS said, while imports rose 1.1 per cent to £34.4bn as the UK made record purchases of chemicals, particularly medical products, and crude oil.
Vicky Redwood, chief UK economist at Capital Economics, said: “Overall, net trade still looks unlikely to stop the wider economy from falling back into recession this year.”