Falling exports and rising imports drove Britain's trade deficit higher in December, thanks partially to the rise in oil prices, the Office for National Statistics reported on Friday.
December's trade deficit was £4.9bn, much worse than the £2.4bn expected by economists. Meanwhile, November's trade shortfall was revised up to £3.7bn from £2.8bn, again, mainly due to the impact of rising commodity prices.
The overall trade deficit widened to £10.8bn in the fourth quarter, its largest since the July-September period of 2016, and up from £7bn in the third quarter of 2017.
Export volumes fell 0.6% quarter on quarter, while imports rose by 1.7%.
"With the UK being a net oil importer, the sharp rise in oil prices distorted the trade deficit," said Paul Hollingsworth at Capital Economics.
"Note too that excluding oil and erratic items, growth in export volumes exceeded growth in imports in Q4, suggesting that the underlying picture for net trade is much better than these figures suggest."