Britain's goods trade deficit widened more than expected in November, reversing the previous month's record narrowing as exports fell and imports rose slightly, official data showed on Wednesday.

The Office for National Statistics said the widening was driven by lower exports to non-EU countries, and record imports of chemicals.

ECONOMISTS' REACTION

TOM VOSA, NATIONAL AUSTRALIA BANK

It's not as bad as it first looks. It's a little bit disappointing, though within the ballpark of expectation.

Unless we see further significant deterioration in December, which seems unlikely, then we are going to see the total trade deficit narrow, which suggests positive growth in Q4. We think fears of a double dip in the UK will not materialise.

CHRIS WILLIAMSON, MARKIT

UK goods exports fell in November, reversing some of the huge gain seen in October and causing the trade balance to widen. However, exports nevertheless appear to have regained a modest upward trend in recent months, which is likely to have persisted into December.

Trade is nevertheless unlikely to contribute strongly to UK economic growth in 2012, which looks set to be a challenging year as signs of improved demand from countries such as the U.S. and China are likely to be countered by weak demand in the Eurozone.

GEORGE BUCKLEY, DEUTSCHE BANK

One issue with the trade data is that they are extremely volatile. When you look back to what happened to net exports in the national accounts, they have contributed positively to growth because of the decline in sterling.

Today's numbers are worse than expected, but we saw some improvement last month. So it's quite up and down.

Just a couple of months ago the figures were above 10 billion in terms of the goods trade deficit, so they are not that bad. We are not that far off the average of the past 6 months.

In terms of trade, it is very difficult to tell whether we are going to see further improvement. Much obviously depends on how far the rebalancing of the economy has still to go.

ALAN CLARKE, SCOTIA CAPITAL

No mega surprises really. Last month it looked little too good to be true, so what we've had is first a revision in the downward direction, plus a deterioration in November.

Net, I still think the trade balance is a positive contribution to GDP growth on Q4 but that that's about the only thing that's going to add to Q4. We still think there is a chance of Q4 GDP reading being negative.

BRIAN HILLIARD, SOCIETE GENERALE

The October numbers looked too low compared to the recent trend, so some reversal was to be expected and this reversal is well within that margin of error.

But for rebalancing, don't hold your breath. It's going to be a much longer process.

KEY POINTS

- The value of oil imports rose to 4.652 billion pounds, the highest since records began in January 1998

- The ONS said the decline in exports was driven by lower exports of silver, intermediate goods and consumer goods excluding cars to non-EU countries.

- Chemicals imports, including medical products, rose 12 percent on the month to 4.5 billion pounds, the highest since records began in January 1998

(Reporting by David Milliken)