It is possibly a sign that the economy is on a reasonably stable footing: in December last year, the gap narrowed to £224.3bn. Record overseas sales of petrol bumped up the export numbers, whilst imports dropped across the board.
Specifically, imports of crude oil fell to their lowest level since 1997 (that figure is for the whole of 2012), and suggest that the US economy was more buoyant in the last quarter than economists initially thought.
The good thing about the figures is that they could result in a revision of the 0.1% economic contraction that was recorded in the final quarter – it was calculated before the trade deficit figures were actually available.
Moreover, the GDP figures were calculated on an assumption that the trade gap would widen, and a revised figure could bump the GDP figure up to 0.6% annual growth – which would provide some respite to markets and everyone’s mood to boot.
Chief economist at the financial info outfit Markit, Chris Williamson, said: ‘The economy did not fare as badly as the initial GDP estimate suggested in the fourth quarter.’ He added: ‘The data also add to an increasingly bright picture of the global economy at the turn of the year.’
Add the UK’s own upward-revised construction data into the mix and you’ve got enough to be cheerful about for the weekend. Here’s hoping the positives just keep on coming. It’s about time…