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UK faces bigger hill to climb after fourth-quarter GDP cut

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's economy shrank by more than expected in the last three months of 2011 than previously thought, driven down by a weaker services sector, official data showed on Wednesday.

The Office for National Statistics said the economy contracted by 0.3 percent between October and December last year, taking the annual rate of growth to 0.5 percent.

Economists had expected unrevised readings of -0.2 percent quarter-on-quarter and 0.7 percent year-on-year.

The figures provide further confirmation of the weak state of Britain's economy at the end of last year, but offer few clues as to whether it managed to stage a recovery early this year - something economists view as likely given recent data.

Nonetheless, the figures may reignite expectations the Bank of England may need to add additional stimulus to bolster growth.

The ONS said the downward revision was driven by the transport and communication and business services and financial sectors.

Meanwhile, household incomes fell and the saving ratio also eased to 7.7 percent in the quarter, its lowest since the start of the year.

The ONS said real household disposable incomes in 2011 as a whole fell 1.2 percent, the biggest drop since 1977.

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