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The UK's hopes of avoiding a return to recession remain in the balance after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released mixed figures on manufacturing and exports.
Economists were cheered by a month-on-month improvement of 0.8% in factory output for February, reversing some of the 1.9% slide in January.
But separate figures from the ONS also showed a widening in the UK's trade deficit, largely due to a 1.1% fall in exports amid weaker demand from the beleaguered eurozone.
The UK will duck its third recession since the start of the financial crisis if GDP figures on 25th April avoid a second quarter in a row of contraction.
According to the British Retail Consortium UK retail sales rose by 1.9% on a like-for-like basis from March 2012.
Growth is inflated by the timing of Easter, which fell in March this year but in April last year, but unseasonable weather hindered fashion categories.
Adjusted for Shop Price Index inflation at 1.4% in March, total retail sales values grew 2.3% in real terms.
Online sales were up 6.6%.