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UK Industry Reports Sluggish Growth in November

Chris Hepburn | Photodisc | Getty Images

British industrial output grew less than expected in November, despite a strong rebound in oil and gas production, adding to evidence that the economy may have contracted in the last three months of 2012.

Manufacturing output fell 0.3 percent on the month in November after a fall of 1.3 percent in October, the Office for National Statistics said.

The wider reading of industrial output, which includes energy production and mining, rose 0.3 percent compared to a decline of 0.9 percent in October.

The increase in industrial production was driven by an 11.3 percent jump in oil and gas output on the month, the biggest since 1968, after maintenance of the Buzzard North Sea oil field was completed.

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Economists had predicted monthly rises of 0.8 percent in industrial production and 0.5 percent in manufacturing.

Britain's economy, while still fending off recession, has shown some tentative signs of improvement - enough to convince the Bank of England to hold off again on Thursday from any further monetary stimulus while inflation remains above target.

But separate non-seasonally adjusted construction figures, also released on Friday, showed a 3.4 percent fall on the month in output and a 9.8 percent annual drop.

The latest forecasts from the government's fiscal watchdog predict the economy will shrink over the last three months of 2012 - a prospect already reinforced by weak trade data and downbeat purchasing managers' surveys.

Economic uncertainty, below-inflation wage growth and finance minister George Osborne's austerity measures have kept a lid on demand for manufactured goods at home, while exports are struggling to recover in the face of a weakened euro zone economy.

But data from the BoE has also shown some sign that its Funding for Lending Scheme - aimed at getting more credit into the wider economy - is beginning to have some effect.