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U.K. economy slows on Brexit, global worries

Reuters LONDON (Reuters) — Britain’s economy grew at its weakest pace in half a year in the three months to November as factories suffered from tough global trade conditions and the approach of Brexit, official data showed on Friday.

Gross domestic product was 0.3 percent higher than in the previous three-month period, down from growth of 0.4 percent in the three months to October and matching the consensus of a Reuters poll of economists.

Manufacturers suffered their longest period of monthly declines in output since the financial crisis, hurt by weaker overseas demand, the Office for National Statistics said.

Looking at November alone, industrial output dropped 1.5 percent in the year — the biggest fall since August 2013.

Worries about the global economy have been mounting due to concerns about a trade war between the United States and China. Figures from Germany and France earlier this week also showed falling industrial output.

“There may well be a common theme which is hurting the factory sector throughout Europe, for example changes in the auto industry,” Investec chief economist Philip Shaw said, adding that Brexit worries were also weighing on investment.

Carmakers across Europe have suffered from a fall in demand for diesel vehicles due to pollution concerns.

Sterling and British government bonds were little changed by Friday’s figures.

The figures fit with business and consumer surveys that suggest the economy is slowing sharply after robust growth of 0.6 percent in the third quarter of the year, reflecting growing uncertainty ahead of Brexit, as well as global jitters.

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, and whether businesses will still be able to trade without disruption to cross-border supply chains remains unclear.

British Prime Minister Theresa May risks losing a parliamentary vote on Tuesday on the deal she has agreed with the EU. Defeat would leave open the prospect of Britain leaving the EU without any transitional arrangements to smooth the economic shock.

Compared with a year earlier, Britain’s economy was 1.4 percent larger. In November alone, it expanded 0.2 percent, compared with forecasts for a rise of 0.1 percent.

The Bank of England says the economy is likely to have grown around 0.2 percent over the fourth quarter of 2018.

Closely watched purchasing managers’ surveys have pointed to fourth-quarter growth of around 0.1 percent in Britain, according to data firm IHS Markit, which compiles the surveys.Speech

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