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Strong pound hits exports

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THE UK’s economic recovery suffered a setback after industrial output unexpectedly fell in January, increasing concerns over the impact of a strong pound on manufacturing exports.

The Office for National Statistics said overall production fell by 0.1 per cent from the previous month compared with forecasts of 0.2 per cent growth, although it is estimated to have increased by 1.3 per cent on the previous year.

Domestic demand has been the key reason for growth, although economists also pointed to signs that activity is picking up in the eurozone, Britain’s biggest trading partner and the destination for a large percentage of exports.
But the continuing rise of sterling, up 0.5 per cent yesterday to €1.415 – its highest for more than seven years – is fuelling fears that exports could come under pressure.

British Chambers of Commerce chief economist David Kern said: “The manufacturing sector is facing major challenges.

“The sharp rise in the pound means exporters are facing greater obstacles to maintaining trade with the eurozone.”