|The UK's manufacturing sector contracted slightly in April, but is "showing signs of stabilising", according to a closely-watched survey.
The Markit/CIPS Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to 49.8 last month. A reading above 50 indicates growth.
Last week, GDP figures showed that manufacturing output fell by 0.3% in the first quarter.
Manufacturing accounts for about 10.5% of the UK economy.
Analysts said the data suggested the manufacturing sector was strengthening.
"Following the poor start to the year, when manufacturing acted as a drag on the economy in the opening quarter, it is welcome to see the sector showing signs of stabilising in April," said Rob Dobson, Markit's senior economist.
He said manufacturers were reporting continued weakness in domestic markets, but said the real surprise was an improvement in new export orders.
Manufacturers have seen some success in selling to growing markets in Latin America and the Middle East, as well as North America and Australia, offsetting the continued lack of business in the eurozone.
That meant new export orders rose for the first time in more than a year and at the fastest pace since July 2011.
There was less good news on the jobs front however, with factories cutting jobs for the third straight month.
The stronger-than-expected PMI figure pushed the value of the pound up against the dollar, as the survey data was deemed to reduce the prospect of further stimulus action from the Bank of England.
In morning trade, sterling was up 0.2% against the dollar at $1.5569.