British factory orders fell unexpectedly in January, the CBI's industrial trends survey showed on Tuesday.
The Confederation of British Industry survey's total order book balance dropped to -20 this month from -12 in December, confounding expectations of a reading of -11.
"While domestic demand and business optimism have steadied, export demand remains a concern for manufacturers, with orders continuing to fall, albeit at a slower rate," said the CBI's head of economic analysis, Anna Leach.
"There are encouraging signs of stability in overall demand however, with domestic orders, export orders and production expected to rise in the quarter ahead."
Separate quarterly CBI data showed that the quarterly business situation balance rose to zero in January from -12 in October.
Earlier in the month, sluggish industry output data for November pointed to a fall in economic output in the last three months of 2012, and Tuesday's figures suggest 2013 got off to a weak start.
However, purchasing managers' data for December showed an unexpected rebound in factory activity as the PMI index hit a 15-month high.
(Reporting by Patrick Graham, writing by Olesya Dmitracova)