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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 January 2006, 10:17 GMT
Oil imports fuel record trade gap
Oil rig
Britain was a net importer of oil for the fifth month in a row
Surging oil imports have propelled Britain's trade deficit with the rest of the world up faster than expected, to a new record for November.

The trade gap in goods and services widened to 5.96bn ($10.45bn) from a deficit of 5.05bn in October, said the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The November figure was more than 1bn higher than economists' forecasts.

The goods trade gap with non-EU countries also widened to 3.02bn in November from 2.28bn in October.

Economists had forecast a deficit of about 2.5bn.

In November, the UK was a net importer of oil for the fifth month running, the longest period since monthly records began in 1980.

"It's a shocking number, much worse than expectations," said Philip Shaw, economist at Investec.

"There are no significant implications for interest rates, but a widening of the UK's external balance will not be welcomed at the Bank of England."

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