UK economy grew in February as firms prepared for lockdown easing

Britain's economy shrank by almost 10% last year

  
People walk through the City of London financial district, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in London, Britain, March 4, 2021.

People walk through the City of London financial district, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in London, Britain, March 4, 2021.

Reuters/Henry Nicholls

LONDON - Britain's economy grew by 0.4% in February from January as companies got ready for the lifting of a third coronavirus lockdown, official data showed on Tuesday.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected growth of 0.6%.

But the data also showed that the fall in gross domestic product in January was not as severe as previously estimated, down by 2.2% compared with the initial reading of a 2.9% drop.

There were signs that trade between Britain and the European Union partially recovered in February after a hit in January, the first month of the new post-Brexit trade relationship.

The Office for National Statistics said the value of goods exports to the EU, excluding non-monetary gold and precious metals, rose by a monthly 47% in February to 11.6 billion pounds ($15.9 billion), while goods imports excluding non-monetary gold were up 7%.

Global goods exports were still 18% lower than a year earlier.

Britain's economy shrank by almost 10% last year, its biggest slump in more than three centuries and a more severe fall than in most European economies, as the country was battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

But a fast rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has raised the prospect of a bounce-back this year and in 2022.

Non-essential shops and outdoor hospitality venues reopened on Monday and Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes to relax most coronavirus restrictions before the end of June. ($1 = 0.7276 pounds)

(Reporting by David Milliken and William Schomberg; Editing by Kate Holton) ((david.milliken@reuters.com; +44 20 7542 5109; Reuters Messaging: david.milliken.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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