Comparing the fourth quarter of last year with the three months to September, yesterday's figures from the Office for National Statistics show that manufacturing output was down 1.3%.
This was not as bad as the 1.5% quarter-on-quarter drop estimated by the ONS when it published data last month showing UK gross domestic product had fallen by 0.3% in the final three months of 2012. However, it was the sharpest drop in manufacturing output in any quarter since the opening three months of 2009.
The 1.6% month-on-month jump in manufacturing output in December was double the 0.8% rise forecast by the City. But it followed respective 1.3% and 0.3% falls in October and November.
Broader industrial production, which includes mining and quarrying, oil and gas extraction and electricity, gas and water supply as well as manufacturing output, rose 1.1% in December. However, comparing the fourth quarter with the preceding three months, it was down 1.9%. This was the sharpest quarterly fall in industrial production since the opening three months of 2009.
Separate data from the ONS yesterday showed the UK's overall deficit on goods and services trade with the rest of the world narrowed from £3.58 billion in November to £3.2bn in December.
But consultancy Capital Economics noted the £37.7bn trade deficit for 2012 as a whole, up from £23.6bn in 2011, was the highest on record in nominal terms.
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research think-tank yesterday estimated UK GDP in the November to January period was unchanged from the previous three months.
Samuel Tombs, at Capital Economics, said: "December's industrial production and trade figures added to evidence that the economic picture improved at the tail end of last year. But the fact that the trade deficit for the year as a whole reached a record high underlines that these improvements are coming from exceptionally weak starting points."