UK economy grew in Feb ahead of lockdown easing

Britain's economy grew by 0.4% in February from January as companies prepared for the lifting of a third lockdown.

That's according to official data which also showed some recovery in post-Brexit trade with the European Union.

The fall in GDP in January was also not as severe as previously estimated, down by 2.2% instead of 2.9%.

Helping the uptick was a rise in factory output, led by car manufacturing.

Britain's economy shrank by almost 10% last year, its biggest slump in more than three centuries and a more severe fall than in most European economies.

But a fast vaccine rollout has raised the prospect of a bounce-back this year and next.

Non-essential shops and outdoor hospitality venues reopened on Monday, giving a shot in the arm to Britain's huge services sector.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes to relax most restrictions before the end of June.

There were also signs that trade between Britain and the European Union partially recovered in February after taking a hit in January, the first month after Brexit.

British goods exports to the EU, excluding non-monetary gold and precious metals, were 41.4% below year-ago levels in January but only 12.5% below in February.

Imports also made some recovery.