Return to recession in the balance
The UK's hopes of avoiding a return to recession remain in the balance following 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 Office for National Statistics (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 April 25 avoid a second quarter in a row of contraction.
Many economists think growth for the first quarter of 2013 will be marginal, having declined by 0.3% in the previous three months.
Markit chief economist Chris Williamson said there were signs of improving business and consumer confidence.
He added: "Economic growth should therefore accelerate in the second quarter, although the ongoing crisis in the eurozone will inevitably continue to dampen export growth and limit the overall pace of expansion."