(Adds industry reaction)
By David Milliken and Costas Pitas
LONDON Dec 9 Britain's trade deficit narrowed
more than expected in October but overall there was little sign
exports were getting much help from sterling's fall since
Britain voted to leave the European Union in June, data showed
The official figures also showed a fall in construction
output which, along with industrial production figures earlier
this week, offered a less cheery picture of the economy than
upbeat business surveys.
The trade deficit in October narrowed to 1.971 billion
pounds ($2.5 billion) from 5.812 billion pounds in September,
the narrowest figure since May. The deficit in goods alone was
lower than all forecasts in a Reuters poll.
But the data for October was overshadowed by big upward
revisions to the deficit in the previous three months. The
Office for National Statistics said on Tuesday it had been
misclassifying trade in gold since January 2015.
While that meant Britain's record current account deficit
was a bit smaller than thought in 2015 and early 2016, the trade
deficit in the three months after June's vote ballooned to 14.9
billion pounds, its largest since late 2013.
"There remains only limited evidence so far that the
depreciation of sterling has led to a marked increase in UK
exports," ONS statistician Hannah Finselbach said.
Currency falls often take time to boost a country's trade
position as imports rise in cost before businesses can find new
markets for exports. Businesses surveyed by the Confederation of
British Industry and IHS Markit have reported big rises in costs
but also greater demand for exports.
In the three months to October, goods import volumes were up
4.4 percent - the biggest rise since April - while goods exports
were down 2.1 percent after a 5.1 percent drop in the third
October was lacklustre for construction, with output down
0.6 percent, reflecting lower infrastructure spending.
Construction orders were weaker than before the referendum,
which the ONS said was due to fewer projects such as schools and
hospitals. Last month finance minister Philip Hammond said he
wanted to see more public investment.
Private house building proved a bright spot, with output up
2.4 percent on the month, the most since February.
"Although it may appear disappointing that infrastructure
output did not mirror this trend, (Hammond's measures) should
help ensure all future communities are supported by the right
infrastructure," said John Tutte, chief executive of house
($1 = 0.7937 pounds)
(Editing by Hugh Lawson)