The U.K.'s current account deficit widened to a record high in the fourth quarter of 2015, exposing an underlying weakness in the country's economy, even as new GDP data revealed faster-than-expected growth.
The deficit in the U.K.'s current account — the difference between the amount of money coming into the country and the amount leaving — reached 32.7 billion pounds ($47 billion) during the period, according to data released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) Thursday. The figure is equivalent to 7 percent of the country's GDP, and is a substantial rise from the third-quarter figure, which amounted to 4.3 percent of GDP.
For the whole of 2015, the deficit totaled 96.2 billion pounds ($138 billion) or 5.2 percent of GDP. Both figures were the highest since official records began in 1948.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected the U.K.'s deficit to widen to 21.1 billion pounds ($30.3 billion) in the quarter, from 17.5 billion ($25.1 billion) in the third quarter.
The change was attributed by Bloomberg to a widening of the U.K.'s trade deficit and an increase in the shortfall on investment income, as the country earned less on its holdings overseas.
In better news for the U.K., other data released by the ONS Thursday showed the British economy grew faster than expected in the fourth quarter of 2015. GDP for the quarter was revised upwards to 0.6 percent quarter-over-quarter in the fourth quarter, and 2.1 percent year-over-year, surpassing estimates of 0.5 percent and 1.9 percent respectively.
Sterling rose in early trading after the announcement, but fell back to be down 0.02 percent on the day as of 06:30 a.m. EDT.
The rise came largely off the back of an upward revision in the construction sector in December 2015.
The data comes just days after the Financial Policy Committee of U.K.'s central bank warned that the outlook for financial stability in the country had deteriorated since its last meeting in November, driven by uncertainty over a possible Brexit.