The headline index, known as the Purchasing Managers Index, at a four-month low in February, rose from 48.6 in March to 49.8 in April.
The dividing line between contraction and growth is 50, so 49.8 indicates very slow contraction in Britain's manufacturing sector for the month.
"Following the poor start to the year, when manufacturing acted as a drag on the economy in the opening quarter, it is welcoming to see the sector showing signs of stability" said Markit economist Rob Dobson.
Dobson said the domestic market "is just about holding its head above water ... but was still a key cause of disappointingly weak demand ... while solid improvement in new export orders was a real surprise."
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