This month's order books offer manufacturers a "glimmer of hope", according to the CBI, standing at their best level since last November.
But the organisation's monthly survey, published today, shows total orders remain well below normal, and firms do not expect the improvement to increase output this quarter as many firms believe current stock is adequate to meet demand after recent sluggish performances.
Head of economic analysis at the CBI, Doug Godden, commented: "Conditions facing manufacturers have proved disappointing throughout this year."
"Overseas, weak markets have prevented exporters from benefiting from sterling's decline. At home, manufacturers seem to have been missing out on the domestic demand generated by consumers and the Government."
The firms with the biggest increases in orders were those making consumer goods inclduing food, drink, pharmaceuticals and electrical goods. These were followed by makers of intermediate goods - such as chemicals, metals or textiles.
And the slight improvement for the beleaguered sector could go even further next year, with an expected overall increase in output for the first time in four years.
The same cannot be said for the rest of the economy though. The CBI scaled back its forecasts for economic growth today, claiming that the UK's "anaemic performance" in the first half of the year did nothing to increase confidence in a quick recovery.
The organisation was similarly pessimistic about a global turnaround, despite positive signs from the US in recent weeks.
The CBI now predicts that UK growth will average 1.8% this year - that's down by 0.3% on its original forecast. And it expects growth to average 2.4% in 2004 - a cut of just 0.1%.
That compares unfavourably with the Chancellor's allegedly over-optimistic claims that the economy will grow by 2% to 2.5% this year and 3% to 3.5% in 2004.