UK trade gap just gets worse

A widening trade gap will underline Britain's worsening financial standing with the rest of the world this week as official figures confirm the nation's slide at the end of last year.

The UK's current account deficit, which includes trade as well as earnings on foreign investments less payments to foreign investors, is expected to swell to £13.1bn in the fourth quarter of 2012. The main culprit is expected to be the trade gap, which grew by nearly £1bn to £9.2bn in the final three months as exports sank even more quickly than imports.

The performance comes as the Office for National Statistics' second revision of GDP between October and December is set to show the economy shrinking by 0.3 per cent.

The threat of a triple-dip recession also hangs in the balance as a dramatic slump for manufacturers contrasts with more buoyant sales for retailers.