Surprise as trade gap widens

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The Independent Online

Britain's trade deficit unexpectedly widened in October after imports into the UK soared to a record high, official figures showed today.

Imported goods increased by 3.4% to £31.6 billion - the highest total since records began in 1992 - driven by high purchases of chemicals from other European Union nations, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Exports rose 4.1% to £23.1 billion, the highest level since 2006, but this was not enough to prevent the trade deficit widening to £8.5 billion from £8.4 billion in September.

Economists said a widening trade deficit would be a blow to hopes that net trade - when exports outstrip imports - can make a positive contribution to economic growth in the fourth quarter of the year.