Britain's trade-in-goods deficit widened in January, official data showed on Tuesday, even as exports to non-EU countries hit a record high level amid the ongoing debt crisis in the eurozone.
The deficit grew to £7.5 billion (8.9 billion euros, $11.7 billion), the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement. That compared with a shortfall of £7.2 billion in December.
Market expectations had been for a larger deficit of £7.9 billion in January, according to analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires.
The ONS added that exports of goods to non-European Union countries grew to £12.9 billion.
That was the highest level since comparable records began in January 1998 and contrasted with £12.4 billion in December. The rise was driven by exports of cars, particularly to China, Russia and the United States.
Exports of goods to EU nations meanwhile eased slightly to stand at £13.1 billion in January.
"Although the UK trade deficit widened in January, the big picture is that the external sector is still holding up quite well, given the eurozone debt crisis," said analyst Vicky Redwood, at the Capital Economics consultancy.
"But with the eurozone economy sliding into recession, we doubt that this will last."
Britain's economic recovery has been severely hampered by the long-running sovereign debt crisis in key trading partner the eurozone.