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Britain posts fastest annual growth since pre-crisis

Britain's economy grew at the fastest rate last year since before the financial crisis but output dipped in the final quarter of 2013, official data showed on Tuesday.

LONDON: Britain's economy grew at the fastest rate last year since before the financial crisis but output dipped in the final quarter of 2013, official data showed on Tuesday.

Gross domestic product expanded by 1.9 per cent in 2013, the biggest expansion since 2007, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement.

GDP had grown by only 0.1 per cent in 2012, while the IMF recently said it expect the British economy to grow by 2.4 per cent this year.

Economic output meanwhile grew by 0.7 per cent between October and December last year compared with the third quarter of 2013, when GDP increased by 0.8 per cent, the ONS added.

Finance minister George Osborne said that overall, Tuesday's data was "more evidence that our long-term economic plan is working".

He added in a statement: "But the job is not done, and it is clear that the biggest risk now to the recovery would be abandoning the plan that's delivering jobs and a brighter economic future."

Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government has embarked on a massive austerity drive since coming to power in 2010, two years after the start of the financial crisis, in a bid to bring down a record deficit inherited from the previous Labour administration.

The fourth-quarter slowdown meanwhile took the shine off Britain's recent recovery.

"The 0.7-per cent rise in UK GDP in the fourth quarter is a touch disappointing given the recent strength of the business surveys," said Martin Beck, economist at Capital Economics research group.

"But it still takes full-year growth in 2013 to 1.9 per cent, the best performance since 2007 and possibly the strongest growth in the G7", which comprises also the United States, Germany and Japan.

In the fourth quarter, Britain achieved increases in output from the industrial and services sectors, while construction fell, according to the ONS data.

The slowdown could meanwhile dampen expectations of the Bank of England raising its main interest rate this year, analysts said on Tuesday.

Bank of England chief Mark Carney last week played down speculation that its key rate was due to rise from a record-low British level of 0.50 per cent following a shock fall in unemployment.

The possibility of a rise in the bank's key rate rose after official data showed that British unemployment fell to 7.1 per cent, just above the 7.0 per cent threshold that Carney set as a potential trigger for a tightening of monetary policy.

Britain is a member of the European Union but not the single-currency eurozone.

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