February looks less subdued with the market expecting a monthly increase of about 0.7%, taking annual growth to 3.5%.
The extent of price rises will depend on how fast January's sales reductions were reversed in February, the impact of a mortgage rate rise, and whether companies are trying to improve their profit margins by raising prices as suggested by the CBI Industrial Trends surveys.
January's survey showed that price expectations in food manufacturing were up sharply, and this may be reflected in higher food prices last month.
In December a deficit of £913bn reflected artwork imports worth £200m, and the January figure of £303m was probably distorted to a similar extent as they were re-exported. Distortion also came with the changing definition of non-EC following the accession of Sweden, Finland and Austria to the EC.
Excluding these distortions the trend appears to be for a slight worsening of the deficit. However, the latest CBI survey suggests that British manufacturers are seeing their highest level of export demand for 18 years.