George Osborne received a pre-Budget boost yesterday as trade figures came out much rosier than expected. Thanks to a good showing from car makers such as Rolls-Royce and Jaguar selling more to the US, Russia and China, Britain had record exports to regions outside the EU. That will be seen as good news for the Chancellor's hopes of a "march of the makers" to rebalance the economy away from financial services. As domestic consumer demand falls, Britain is ever more dependent on exports for growth, particularly outside the crisis-bound eurozone.
Although the trade gap between imports and exports still widened in January, it did so at a far slower rate than expected.