Scotland's economy continues to stagnate with almost 40% of businesses reporting a decrease in turnover, according to a bank survey.
In the three months ending November 2012, 29% of firms increased turnover, 32% stayed the same and 39% experienced a decrease, according to the Lloyds TSB Scotland Business Monitor.
The service sector appears to be suffering in particular with an overall net balance for turnover during the period at minus 16%, dropping from 1% in the previous quarter and from minus 8% in the same quarter of 2011.
In the production sector overall turnover was 1%, an improvement from the minus 2% of the previous quarter but significantly down on the 9% reported one year ago. Export activity in the last three months was minus 3%, worse than the 0% of the previous quarter but well up on the minus 17% in 2011.
But the survey shows that firms are more positive in their outlook than this time last year, with expectations for turnover in the next six months showing a net balance of minus 5%, up from minus 14% in 2011. Around half (49%) expect turnover to be static, 23% believe it will increase and 28% predict a decrease.
Donald McRae, chief economist at the bank, said: "The latest business monitor suggests the stagnation of the summer has continued. However, there are no definite signs of a relapse into deep recession. Despite the apparent poor performance in autumn, business expectations for 2013 have improved from a low position.
"A return to more vigorous growth in the Scottish economy awaits further increase in confidence in both consumers and businesses. This in turn depends upon building on policy measures to contain the eurozone sovereign debt crisis and implementing policies to restore the eurozone and UK economies to growth."
A Scottish Government spokesman said sustainable economic growth is the top priority. "While it is encouraging to see such a significant improvement in firms expectations for future export activity, we recognise that Scottish businesses continue to face a challenging economic environment," he said.
Conservative finance spokesman Gavin Brown said: "Sadly, when it comes to making the economy a priority the SNP say one thing but do another when it comes to improving job security and providing an improved quality of life for everyone in Scotland. What we need is real action for the business community in areas such as construction, not just the usual warm words from the Scottish Government."
He called for ministers to give clear start dates to capital projects and criticised plans to impose a new retail tax.