Manufacturers surprised the City yesterday after expanding output by 0.2 per cent in January to maintain their recent recovery.
According to National Statistics, there were no major falls in manufacturing production during a month in which the makers of food, tobacco and paper grew significantly.
The figures were better than expected by analysts, who worry that a stronger manufacturing sector will lead the Bank of England to conclude that inflationary pressures are rising.
Although the Bank's ninestrong Monetary Policy Committee is not expected to raise interest rates today, many pundits think an increase from the current level of 4.75 per cent will take place later this year.
Steve Radley, chief economist of employers' organisation EEF, said the figures showed the manufacturing sector was in better health than is often portrayed.
Unseasonably mild temperatures in January meant the overall index of production fell 0.2 per cent as utilities scaled back output in the face of lower demand.
Output of the electricity, gas and water supply industries fell 2.1 per cent between December and January, while NS said mining and quarrying firms also produced less.
January's rise means that manufacturing output has not fallen in any single month for five consecutive months, the best performance since August-December 2000.
On a year-on-year basis, manufacturing output was 1.4 per cent higher, up on expectations of a 1.2 per cent increase.
The statistics office added that the trend estimate for manufacturing shows an annual growth rate of one per cent, up on December's trend of zero per cent.
The ONS announced separately that the UK's trade gap in goods worsened during the first month of this year to £5.2 billion from a revised deficit of £4.9 billion in December.
The level of imports held steady during the month but firms selling their goods overseas lost ground as total exports fell 1.5 per cent to £16.5 billion. A surplus of £1.5 billion in services meant the UK's deficit on trade in goods and services stood at £3.7 billion in January, a deterioration on the mark of £3.5 billion in the previous month.