Triple-dip fears to grow

A stagnant manufacturing sector and a widening trade deficit will cause further headaches this week for a Coalition struggling to stave off a triple-dip recession.

Official figures are set to show zero growth for manufacturers in January, a month which also saw a 6.3 per cent decline for the building industry. Other surveys suggest that manufacturers' woes increased in February after industry output fell at the sharpest pace since last October.

The Investec economist Victoria Clarke said: "The sharp slump into contractionary territory in the manufacturing purchasing managers' index suggests the sector could … act as a drag on first quarter GDP, adding to 'triple-dip' fears."

Figures are also set to show the goods trade gap with the rest of the world widening to £9bn, underlining the UK's faltering efforts at rebalancing its economy after a worsening trade performance knocked 0.2 percentage points off growth in the final quarter of 2012.