LONDON (AP) -- Manufacturing output in the United Kingdom fell half a percent in March, dragging the quarterly gain down to 0.3 percent compared with the last three months of 2007, the government reported Wednesday.
The March drop was led by a 2.7 percent fall in auto production, with the overall transport equipment industry falling 1.3 percent during the month, the Office for National Statistics said.
The agency said output in March fell in 10 of the 13 sub-sectors it surveyed.
For the first quarter of the year, the agency said the 0.3 percent gain was led by a 2.4 percent increase in production of chemicals and manmade fibers, and a 1.8 percent rise in the manufacture of machinery and equipment.
Howard Archer, chief European economist at Global Insight, said the report added to a generally gloomy picture.
''The recent stream of weaker data and survey evidence relating to consumer confidence, retail sales, the housing market, the services sector and manufacturing activity suggest that the U.K. economic downturn is deepening and widening,'' Archer said.
He said this would add to pressure on the Bank of England to make a further cut in the base interest rate, now 5.0 percent.
''At the very least, interest rates look certain to be down to 4.75 percent by June,'' Archer said.