[LONDON] British industrial output grew at the fastest pace in nearly four years in April, boosted by pharmaceuticals, car production and gas, in contrast to other signs of a slowdown in the economy ahead of the EU referendum.
Industrial output rose 2.0 per cent in April after a 0.3 per cent rise in March, the biggest month-on-month increase since July 2012, the Office for National Statistics said. Economists polled by Reuters had expected it to stagnate on the month.
Bank of England policymakers are likely to take the strength of the data with a pinch of salt, having warned economic figures are likely to be volatile and tricky to interpret ahead of the June 23 referendum on Britain's European Union membership.
Manufacturing output also rose at the fastest pace since July 2012, up 2.3 per cent on the month following a 0.1 per cent increase in March.
The figures were boosted by the biggest monthly rise in the often volatile pharmaceuticals sector since February 2014, up 8.6 per cent. The ONS said there anecdotal evidence of large export orders in the industry.
Manufacturing represents around 10 per cent of British economic output and the sector remains 6.4 per cent below its pre-crisis peak.
Looking at the three months to April, which gives a better sense of the underlying trend in what is often volatile data, industrial output rose 0.7 per cent, the first increase this year.
Britain's overall economy slowed in the first quarter, with the pace of growth easing to 0.4 per cent compared with 0.6 per cent in the previous three months.
Things could get worse in the current quarter. A series of surveys of businesses from Markit/CIPS published last week suggested growth was on course to slow to just 0.2 per cent in the April-June period.
They also suggested some companies have put contracts on hold ahead of the referendum.