An unexpected fall in UK manufacturing has raised new fears over the health of the economy.
The Purchasing Managers' Index measures activity in the sector. The latest figures suggest it is contracting much more quickly than anticipated.
ITV News Economics Editor Richard Edgar reports:
Police have been using water cannon to disperse protesting steel workers in the Belgian town of Namur.
The workers are demonstrating against the closure by ArcelorMittal of a coke plant and six production lines in Liege.
Chancellor George Osborne has been touring a plant that makes train wheels in Manchester.
He spoke to workers at the Lucchini UK factory following the announcement that an extension of the planned HS2 line will bring news jobs to the manufacturing sector.
The government is ignoring manufacturing by focusing its efforts on finance, according to Jane Robinson - a business development director in Barnsley, South Yorkshire.
She says the laser cutting and engraving business she works for, Cutting Technologies, struggled in last few months of last year, but that diversifying enabled them to stay afloat.
She spoke to ITV News about the importance of "making things" in the UK:
This is how different sectors performed in the final three months of 2012:
- Overall - contraction by 0.3%
- Production - fell by 1.8% (within that manufacturing fell by 1.5%)
- Service - remained flat
- Construction - rose by 0.3%
So no growth at all in 2012 if these figures aren't revised, which they may well be.
New figures reveal growth in the manufacturing sector reached a 15-month high in December.
The latest Markit/CIPS purchasing managers' index showed a headline reading of 51.4 in December, marking a return to growth for the first time since March and the highest reading since September 2011.
Manufacturers were boosted by increased demand from British firms, which helped output from the sector rise at the fastest pace for 20 months, offsetting an ongoing slump in orders from the crisis-hit eurozone.
Small firms manufacturing in England predict a sales increase over the next few months, according to a new study.
A survey of more than 600 companies by the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) revealed "cautious optimism", with just over half expected to grow.
Lorraine Holmes of the MAS said: "Around 86 per cent of companies told us that they intend to maintain or increase their workforce, which shows a general stability in these figures."
Terry Scuoler, Chief Executive of manufacturers' organisation EEF, said today's GDP figures were a "welcome development" but warned they are "skewed due to a series of one off events" and there are questions on whether the pace of growth will continue into the new year. He said:
A true account of the UK’s economic performance has been skewed recently due to a series of one-off events, and this quarter is no different. The question is whether this first estimate is enough to signal an improvement in the underlying growth picture.
With survey data, particularly in our major markets, pointing to difficult trading conditions in recent months, it’s unlikely this pace of expansion will be maintained into the new year.
The pressure is still on for government to set out a clear vision of its economic priorities in the forthcoming Autumn Statement.
British manufacturing figures just out show that the sector was still shrinking in August, but not as fast as the previous month.
Factory orders deteriorated more than expected this month, as exports fell, the CBI's monthly industrial trends survey showed.
The Confederation of British Industry survey's total order book balance fell to -17 this month from -8 in April, below expectations for a reading of -10, and its lowest reading since December.