British industrial output slowed further at the end of last year, hurt by maintenance work on North Sea oil and gas fields, adding to signs that Britain's economic recovery lost some pace at the end of 2014. Industrial output fell by a monthly 0.2 percent in December, compared with economists' average forecast of a 0.1 percent rise, after no change in November.
With Britons going to the polls in less than three months' time, the outlook for the economy is under close scrutiny by all political parties. Prime Minister David Cameron has said he wants Britain to be more export-oriented, but weakness in the euro zone has left it largely reliant on consumer demand.
Britain's economy grew by 2.6 percent in 2014, the fastest growth rate of any big advanced economy, but lost pace towards the end of the year, including in the manufacturing sector which is exposed to weakening demand in the euro zone. Since then, however, there have been signs that the fall in world oil prices has given a fresh boost to growth. Tuesday's data showed manufacturing output rose 0.1 percent after robust growth of 0.8 percent on the month in November. Economists had expected output to fall by 0.1 percent.
U.S. wholesale inventories barely rose in December, the latest suggestion that fourth-quarter growth could be revised lower. Wholesale inventories edged up 0.1 percent as lower crude oil prices weighed on the value of petroleum stocks. Stocks at wholesalers had increased by 0.8 percent in November.
Inventories are a key component of gross domestic product changes. The component that goes into the calculation of GDP - wholesale stocks excluding autos nudged up 0.1 percent. The report, together with last week's data showing a 0.3 percent fall in manufacturing inventories in December, suggested the boost to GDP growth from restocking in the fourth quarter was probably not as large as initially thought.
Sales at wholesalers fell 0.4 percent in December after a similar decline in November. At December's sales pace it would take 1.22 months to clear shelves, down from 1.21 months in November.
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