British industrial output suffered its biggest fall since 2012 in December due to the temporary shutdown of a major oil pipeline.

But growth in the UK manufacturing sector confirmed the broader picture of solid economic expansion at the end of 2017. 

UK construction output also showed a surprise surge in December, according to official data published today. 

Britain's economic growth slowed slightly in 2017 as higher inflation caused by the fall in sterling after the Brexit vote hurt consumers, but some exporters have gained from the weaker pound and the stronger global economy. 

Industrial output fell by 1.3% month-on-month in December, the biggest drop since September 2012 after a 0.3% rise in November, the Office for National Statistics said. 

Economists in a Reuters poll had expected to see output fall 0.9% as a shutdown in the damaged Forties North Sea oil pipeline looked certain drag on the sector. 

While today's figures showed the hit was bigger than thought, the pipeline is back online so a corresponding rebound in production looks likely in January.

Overall, the data are unlikely to alter the analysis of Bank of England officials who this week upgraded their growth forecasts for Britain on account of an improving global economy.

The Bank of England also said that UK interest rates were likely to need to rise sooner than it had thought last year.

The ONS said Britain's manufacturing sector, which is part of overall industrial output, saw output rise by 0.3% on the month.

This marked the eighth consecutive month of growth in the sector - the longest such run in nearly 30 years. 

The UK economy grew at a quarterly rate of 0.5% in the three months to December, the fastest pace seen over 2017. The ONS said today's industrial and construction data did not alter this estimate. 

The buoyant world economy has been a boon for British exporters, who are in the midst of a sweet spot before Britain's exit from the European Union, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said yesterday. 

Deputy Governor Ben Broadbent said today that he would not be shocked if British interest rates needed to go up twice this year. 

However, ONS data showed Britain's goods trade deficit with the rest of the world widened to £13.6 billion in December. 

Economists polled by Reuters had expected a smaller shortfall of £11.6 billion. 

The ONS linked the large deficit to rising crude oil prices and higher imports. 

Separately, the ONS said construction output jumped 1.6% on the month. The Reuters poll suggested construction output would be flat.