Britain’s economy dodged a return to recession and grew faster than expected in the first three months of this year.
That provides some political relief for the UK government, which is under fire for the negative effects from its austerity drive
Gross domestic product rose 0.3 percent quarter-on-quarter, well above forecasts.
The economy had shrunk 0.3 percent at the end of last year, so a further contraction would have put Britain into its third recession in less than five years.
Year-on-year, the GDP reading was 0.6 percent higher, the strongest rise since the end of 2011, but even with this latest data, the economy has stagnated for the past 18 months.
The first-quarter rise in output was driven by a broad-based increase in services, building on a strong January.
Britain has been much slower to recover from the financial crisis than most other big economies. That is down to weak demand from a recession-hit euro zone, a drag from the government’s deficit-reduction measures and high inflation eating into meagre wage rises.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition governmen is banking on an economic upturn before the next general election but has been accused by critics of stifling growth with too much budget cutting.
The International Monetary Fund – previously supportive of Britain’s approach to deficit reduction – has also suggested some cuts may need to be deferred given the weakness in demand.
The latest figures were released just days after ratings agency Fitch stripped Britain of its AAA credit status.