[LONDON] British industrial output expectedly fell in January hit by a reduction in work in the information technology and machinery sectors after a strong December, official figures showed.
Industrial output fell by a monthly 0.1 per cent, compared with a forecast for a 0.2 per cent increase from economists taking part in a Reuters poll.
The Office for National Statistics said manufacturing output slid 0.5 per cent in January from December.
The biggest drag came from the computer, electronic and optical sector in which output plunged by 9.5 per cent, its biggest monthly fall since early 2002, the ONS said.
Output in the sector had been boosted in December by a big public sector defence contract, an ONS official said.
There was also a big monthly fall in output of equipment used for power generation, he said.
Over the three months to January, a less volatile measure of output, manufacturing was up 0.4 per cent compared with the previous three months, picking up a bit of speed from December.
Britain's economy grew by 2.6 per cent in 2014, the fastest growth rate of any big advanced economy, but lost pace towards the end of the year when total output rose by 0.5 per cent.
Since then, however, there have been signs that the fall in world oil prices has given a fresh boost to growth, helping Prime Minister David Cameron as he urges voters to give him a second term in office on the strength of the country's recovering economy.
The ONS said British oil and gas production recovered in January, rising 2.4 per cent on the month, helped by increased production at a North Sea oil terminal and oil and gas fields.
Output in the North Sea in December had been reduced by extended maintenance at oil fields.
The ONS' industrial output data cover nearly 15 per cent of the total British economy.
In yearly terms, industrial production and manufacturing were up 1.3 and 1.9 per cent respectively. Economists in the Reuters poll had predicted increases of 1.3 and 2.6 per cent.