UK economy picks up in late 2016 but signs of Brexit hit appear

The pound fell after Wednesday's Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures.

Brexit. Picture: Facebook.

LONDON - Britain's economy sped up at the end of 2016, data showed, but over the whole year it was weaker than previously thought and there were signs that the Brexit vote will increasingly act as a brake on growth in 2017.

The pound fell after Wednesday's Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, which no longer showed Britain was the fastest-growing major advanced economy last year.

Gross domestic product rose by 0.7% in the fourth quarter, faster than the preliminary reading of 0.6% thanks to manufacturing and the strongest growth since the fourth quarter of 2015.

The figures are likely to reinforce finance minister Philip Hammond's view that there is no case right now to borrow more to help the economy when he announces his annual budget on March 8.

But he will keep a close eye on warning signs in Wednesday's data.

Business investment fell and slowing household spending growth raised questions about the outlook for 2017.

The ONS also trimmed its estimate for 2016 growth to 1.8% from 2.0%, due to businesses stockpiling fewer goods and materials in early 2016.

That pushed Britain's economic growth rate slightly below Germany's 1.9%.