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UK industrial output suffers biggest drop since 2012 in December

[LONDON] British industrial output suffered its sharpest monthly drop in December since 2012, driven down by declines in mining, oil and gas extraction and manufacturing, official data showed on Wednesday.

The Office for National Statistics also revised down its estimate for industrial output in the fourth quarter to show a 0.5 per cent drop from a 0.2 per cent decline previously. It said this would have a negligible impact on its previous estimate of economic growth.

Britain has been one of the fastest-growing major advanced economies in the world for the last couple of years. But it has relied heavily on domestically focused services for growth, frustrating hopes for a better-balanced recovery.

Industrial output fell 1.1 per cent month-on-month in December after a 0.8 per cent drop in November, the Office for National Statistics said. Economists polled by Reuters had expected it to edge down only 0.1 per cent.

The manufacturing sector failed to contribute to British economic growth in 2015 and Wednesday's data augured badly for this year.

Output in manufacturing fell for a third month in a row for the first time since early 2009, dropping 0.2 per cent on the month after falling 0.3 per cent in November. Economists had expected manufacturing output to edge up 0.1 per cent in November.

Both industrial and manufacturing output showed their biggest annual declines in December since mid-2013.

Finance minister George Osborne has warned that the economy was facing a "dangerous cocktail" of risks from overseas in 2016, as growth slows in major emerging markets, stock markets tumble and a slump in oil prices reduces demand from oil-exporting nations.

Output from the oil and gas extraction sector fell 4.6 per cent on the month, the biggest decline since September.

Brent crude oil prices slid 16 per cent in December and 35 per cent for 2015 as a whole.