Trade deficit reaches record quarterly high as British firms stockpile goods

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The trade deficit remains far higher than forecast by City economists as British businesses continue to stockpile critical goods and components ahead of a delayed Brexit.

The deficit in Q1 this year hit £18.3bn, a record high for any three month period and nearly double the £9.4bn disparity seen in the final quarter of last year.

However, there are indications that businesses are slowing their inventory intake as the value gap between imports and exports narrowed to £5.4bn in March from £6.2bn in February, with continued narrowing expected before the end of October as businesses batton down the hatches.

We could still, however, see a flurry of late purchasing and stocking of raw materials in the run-up to the new Brexit deadline should a no-deal exit from the European Union look more likely than not.

Businesses have actually been more active of late, utilising the slight break to the imminent danger of a no-deal Brexit in much the same way as the housing market, with private-sector business activity rebounding in April with the services sector, in particular, returning to growth.

Read more: Brexit delayed again, but your preparations must go on

But for exporting firms, the value of the pound has added a further complication this month as values against the dollar and euro fell following the announcement that Theresa May will step down as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party.

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