Shoppers are tightening their belts as the economy fails to grow
UK economic growth ground to a halt between April and June, according to the latest official figures.
The Office for National Statistics said the economy stalled, showing no growth from the first quarter of 2008.
It ends a run of more than 15 years of consecutive growth in the UK and will raise expectations of a rate cut.
The 0% growth figure was down from an earlier estimate of 0.2% and lower than the 0.3% growth recorded in the first three months of 2008.
The figures were the weakest since 1992 and the news sent the pound lower against the dollar and the euro.
The government said the economy was feeling the effects of global pressures such as high commodity prices and the continuing credit squeeze.
"The Government's priority is to guide Britain through these challenging times, while also supporting those hit hardest as a result of these global factors," a Treasury spokesman said.
But the Conservatives said that Labour's economic record had been tarnished.
"For years Gordon Brown boasted about consecutive quarters of economic growth," Shadow Chancellor George Osborne said.
"Now economic growth has ground to a halt and Brown's bubble has burst."
Friday's figures showed that the services sector, the backbone of the UK economy, grew just 0.2%, while manufacturing output fell by 0.8%. Household spending dropped by 0.1%.
Exports also fell as Europe, the UK's main trading partner, saw growth contract in the same period.
The UK economy grew 1.4% from the second quarter of 2007, revised down from an initial estimate of 1.6%.
"The figures are very weak and suggest the UK economy is already in recession," said George Buckley, an economist at Deutsche Bank.
The economy technically enters a recession when it shrinks for two consecutive quarters.
Bank of England governor Mervyn King has warned that the UK economy is in for a difficult and painful period due to a combination of high inflation and rapidly slowing growth.
Inflation, which at 4.4% is well above the 2% target rate, could make it more difficult for the Bank to cut interest rates to spur the economy.
But analysts said the zero growth reading could lead to lower borrowing costs by the end of this year.
"This really does put a rate cut firmly on the agenda although it is unlikely to come until we have seen the peak in inflation," said Brian Hilliard, an analyst at SG.