Trade gap narrows, but trend worsening

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The Independent Online

Britain'S trade gap narrowed unexpectedly in February, despite the strong pound. However, the trend in the shortfall between exports and imports is getting worse, the Office for National Statistics said yesterday.

The UK's overall deficit declined to £1.4bn in February from £1.7bn the previous month. But in the three months to February it amounted to £5.2bn, up from £3.2bn in the previous three months.

Figures for non-EU trade in goods in March also showed an improvement, at £1.5bn in the red compared with £1.8bn in February. Exports to countries outside the EU climbed 4.5 per cent, while the value of imports was little changed.

The pound has climbed 15 per cent against the euro since 1997, but has changed little against the dollar and has declined 10 per cent against the yen. Most economists expect the deficit will be above £17bn in 2000.

The pound edged still higher on the foreign exchanges yesterday. Its index against other currencies ended at 112.6, up from 111.9

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