The goods-trade gap was 7.3 billion pounds ($11.4 billion), the most since January 2009, the Office for National Statistics said. Imports rose 5.2 percent, while exports climbed 4.5 percent on the month.
Bank of England Governor Mervyn King is counting on the weakness of the pound to aid exports and help rebalance the economy away from domestic demand as it shakes off the recession. Policy makers said last week that Britain had sluggish” growth in the fourth quarter and faces a gradual” recovery.
The trade gap with nations outside the European Union swelled to 3.6 billion pounds from 3.1 billion pounds in November as imports jumped by 7.6 percent.
Car imports jumped 16 percent in December from the previous month, outweighing a 10 percent increase in auto exports, the statistics office said. The government has offered incentives for people to trade in their cars to support the industry.
Manufacturers’ optimism on exports rose to the highest since 1995 this month, while an index of export orders for small and medium-sized manufacturers rose to a two-year high in the quarter through January, the Confederation of British Industry said in separate reports last month.
For 2009 as a whole, the trade gap narrowed to 82 billion pounds, the least in three years, the statistics office said. The deficit in total trade, including both services and goods, was 34 billion pounds, the smallest since 2004.