Xinhua, London : A significant fall in Britain’s trade deficit for the final quarter of last year, as shown in figures issued Friday, was widely welcomed by economists. Goods import volumes in December fell 1.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, and exports rose only slightly, 0.1 percent quarter on quarter to produce the significant reduction, which far exceeded market expectations. The trade deficit in goods fell sharply to 7.7 billion British pounds (about 12.6 billion U.S. dollars) from 9.8 billion pounds in November. The overall trade deficit contracted to 1.026 billion pounds in December from 3.58 billion pounds in November and was nearly 2 billion pounds smaller than the market was expecting. Strong export figures for oil, chemicals and aircraft led the rebound, which was the best print of data since July 2012. Simon Wells, chief Britain economist with HSBC Bank, said, “The monthly trade data are volatile but the drop in imports was nevertheless large.” Wells, who has recently warned of the implications of a continued large trade deficit, said, “A more positive goods trade picture is welcome given the wide current account deficit.” “However, the monthly trade data are volatile and a widening in January looks likely, given the very sharp narrowing of the deficit in December,” he said. Industrial production figures released today were a little disappointing, with output rise just 0.4 percent month on month, versus expectations of a 0.6 percent gain. Wells said the industrial production and manufacturing data were only slightly weaker than expected, with little impact on the fourth quarter’s gross domestic product (GDP). James Knightley, chief Britain economist with ING Bank, said the British industrial production and trade numbers are a little mixed. The data showed a very sharp narrowing in the trade deficit yet the manufacturing sector continues to underperform what the business surveys suggest the Britain is producing, Knightley said. Knightley said there was a concern that the series of manufacturing data had been consistently undershooting the more positive impression from current business surveys.