OUTPUT from Britain's construction industry fell by 0.7 per cent in the three months to December, according to latest figures.

The fall marks the third straight quarterly decline, though, on a month-on-month basis, output grew 1.6 per cent in the final month of 2017.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which released the data, said the three-month drop marked the longest fall in quarterly construction output since 2012.

The ONS also released data on total UK trade - covering both goods and services - showing the deficit widening by £3.8bn to £10.8bn in the three months to December 2017.

The statistics agency said a drop in the UK's oil exports had the largest impact on the trade in goods deficit, which widened by £3.3bn.

Goods trading was impacted by a 3.8 per cent - or £2.1bn - increase in imports from non-EU countries, as well as a drop in exports to the EU over the period.

The country's surplus in services, meanwhile, narrowed by £500m.

The shutdown of the North Sea Forties oil pipeline, meanwhile, weighed on production output.

It contributed to a 4.7 per cent drop in mining and quarrying, which partially offset a 1.3 per cent rise in manufacturing.

Together, it resulted in a mere 0.5 per cent increase in the Index of Production accounting for the three months to December 2017, compared to the three months to September.

Total production output fell 1.3 per cent on a month-on-month basis in December, hit by a 19.1 per cent fall in mining and quarrying due to the closure of the Forties pipeline while it was undergoing repairs for a hairline crack.

When looking at 2017 as a whole, total production output jumped by 2.1 per cent year-on-year, bolstered by manufacturing's 2.8 per cent growth.

ONS senior statistician Ole Black said: "Manufacturing continued to grow strongly in the last three months of the year, with metal goods and pharmaceuticals driving growth.

"However, overall production growth slowed due to the shutdown of the cracked Forties pipeline.

"Construction was broadly flat across 2017, thanks to a strong December.

"However, housebuilding and infrastructure were the only bright spots with all other areas of the industry falling back throughout the year.

"The headline trade deficit widened in the fourth quarter with the impact of increased oil imports accentuated by rising crude prices."