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UK Economic Growth Less Than Expected

(c) Sky News 2012

Britain's growth figure for the third quarter has been revised to 0.9% by the Office for National Statistics.

That is down from their previous estimate of 1%.

Britain's dominant services sector posted meagre growth in October, adding to the challenge for the economy as a whole to expand in the last three months of 2012.

Third quarter GDP growth was the strongest since the third quarter of 2007, but much of that reflected a one-off boost from the London Olympics and a rebound from the second quarter when an extra public holiday dented output. 

Britain suffered its second recession since the financial crisis between late 2011 and mid-2012, and overall has recovered much more slowly since 2009 than most other big economies.

It also emerged that borrowing unexpectedly increased last month, putting more pressure on Chancellor George Osborne's plan to bring down the budget deficit.

Public sector net borrowing, excluding financial interventions such as bank bailouts, was £17.5bn in November (Xetra: A0Z24E - news) , up £1.2bn on the same month last year.

Economists had predicted borrowing would fall slightly to around £16bn.

Public sector borrowing for the year to date is £92.7bn, excluding a one-off £28bn boost from the transfer of the Royal Mail pension fund into Treasury ownership, which is 9.9% higher than the same period last year.

James Knightley, analyst at ING Bank, said the borrowing figures highlighted the weak state of the UK economy and the fact that austerity measures were failing to generate the improvement in Government finances that were hoped for.

He said: "All in all, the UK appears to be ending 2012 not in particularly great shape, and as such we suspect the Bank of England has more work to do with further policy stimulus likely in early 2013, especially if the worst fears over the US fiscal cliff materialise."

The ONS said the latest figures do not take into account the transfer of assets from the Bank of England's money printing programme into the Treasury, and the auction of bandwidth for 4G mobile broadband services, which is expected to boost the finances.

In the Chancellor's Autumn Statement earlier this month, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said it expected borrowing to be £108bn in 2012/13, compared to £119.9bn in the March estimate.

The news will put further pressure on Britain's gold-plated AAA status.

All of the three main ratings agencies have now put the UK on negative watch.

Vicky Redwood, chief UK economist at Capital Economics, said: "Although a number of temporary factors flattered the OBR's new forecast for borrowing this year, the underlying picture is that the weak economy is preventing the deficit from falling."