Scottish business 'marginal growth' reported in PMI survey
Research published by the Bank of Scotland has indicated that Scotland's private sector may be starting to grow again.
The bank's PMI survey for December found a score of 50.3, up from 49.8 the previous month.
A figure of above 50 suggests Scottish businesses are growing, while a figure below 50 suggests contraction.
The bank's commentary on its survey described the rate of growth as "marginal".
Alasdair Gardner of the Bank of Scotland said: "Despite returning to expansion territory, Scottish manufacturers struggled to cope with a lack of new orders from both domestic and foreign markets.
"This acted as a brake on overall output growth."
Staffing numbers declined in December for the first time in five months. Manufacturing continued to reduce the size of its workforce, counteracting a modest rise in service-sector employment.
This reflected an increase in new work in the service industries, while new orders were down for manufacturers.
The survey results also indicated businesses being squeezed between increasing costs and a continuing fall in the prices they can charge customers.
Mr Gardner added: "On a positive note, service providers showed signs of economic optimism, with headcounts and new business levels expanding.
"However, these improvements were marginal, and insufficient to propel the economy in a higher gear at the end of 2015."