Petrol Panic And Warm Weather May Have Kept UK Out Of Recession

"We could quite easily see something much weaker – or indeed much stronger," than 0.1pc growth, she said.

Ross Walker at RBS said construction would be a "huge drag" on the first-quarter GDP figures.

The ONS said that aside from the panic buying of petrol, the unseasonably warm weather in March had driven up sales of clothing and footwear. On Thursday, department store Debenhams announced better than expected profits for the first half of its financial year, which were helped by increased sales of clothing.

“There does seem to have been a step upwards in the underlying growth of high street activity over the past few months which suggests the consumer malaise which prevailed through much of 2011 may be over and done with,” said Philip Shaw at Investec.

A strong performance from Britain's dominant services sector is also expected to push the economy into positive territory.

However, Chris Williamson at Markit warned that April "will be weaker" due to many purchases being brought forward because of last month's good weather and that underlying trend in sales figures was "likely to be only modest".

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