Exports start to rise as UK factory output hits a high

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The export dashboard looking at the most recent official trade statistics was published today. The latest data shows goods exports rose in the month of March but this was not enough to offset weakness earlier in the quarter.

Analysis and dashboard first published in today's Daily Telegraph

Last Friday the Office for National Statistics released trade figures for March along with the first quarterly trade statistics for the year.

The data again presents a mixed picture of export performance, with some bright spots against a continued decline in the value of goods exports.

Total goods exports rose a healthy 4.9% in the month of March 2014, but this improvement was not enough to offset weakness earlier in the quarter resulting in overall goods exports falling in Q1 2014. Therefore, these figures imply net exports will be a drag on growth in the first quarter of 2014.

Positively, we saw another narrowing of the goods trade deficit in the first quarter of this year, driven by an improvement in the trade balance with EU countries. However, as with last month, this quarterly improvement was once again driven by goods imports falling at a faster pace than goods exports.

Industrial production figures were also released last week and showed strong momentum in the manufacturing sector, which is responsible for approximately half of the UK's overall exports.

This strength has led to manufacturing output reaching its highest level in more than two-and-a-half years and highlights the sector's pivotal role in supporting the UK's recovery.

EEF's Executive Survey 2014 and Business Trends Survey show manufacturing firms are confident of further production gains throughout the course of this year. Not content to just wait and see how export demand develops, manufacturing executives are actively seeking to improve their opportunities overseas and minimise risks and uncertainty.

Building resilience by selling into new markets and actively boosting their marketing efforts overseas are some of the ways in which manufacturers are responding to the economic environment.

Boosting UK exports will require continued and concerted action from businesses as well as consistent support from government.

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