LONDON (Dispatches) - Britain has lowered its official forecast for economic growth in 2019, finance minister Philip Hammond said on Wednesday as he delivered a half-yearly budget update.
The country's official budget forecasters expected gross domestic product would grow by 1.2 percent in 2019, down from a forecast of 1.6 percent they made when Hammond gave his full budget statement in October.
Economists had expected the growth outlook to be lowered because of Britain's failure to clear up the uncertainty about Brexit and a slowdown in the world economy.
Growth forecasts in 2020 and 2021 stood at 1.4 and 1.6 percent respectively, compared with forecasts of 1.4 percent for both years made in October.
The figures were prepared for Hammond by the Office for Budget Responsibility. They assume Britain will secure a Brexit deal, avoiding the shock of leaving the European Union with no transition.
The UK economy grew by 0.2% in the three months to January, matching the growth of the previous three months.
The report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed a pick-up in activity in January when the economy expanded by 0.5%.
The ONS said strength in IT, health services and wholesale trading offset falls in the manufacturing of metals and cars, and construction repair work.
The increase in wholesale could indicate stockpiling ahead of Brexit.
The total output of goods and services in the UK, or gross domestic product (GDP), grew by 0.2% in the three months to the end of January.
The services sector, which accounts for about 80% of the private sector economy, grew by 0.5% on a rolling three-month basis, mainly driven by wholesale and retail trade.