India's industrial output edged a surprise 0.1 percent higher in January, data showed Wednesday, but the rise was a long way from the strong upturn the government had hoped for ahead of general elections.
The increase, the first in four months, reflected stumbling consumer demand in the face of high interest rates to curb inflation, creaking infrastructure choking productivity and a slew of political scandals that have discouraged investment.
The 0.1 percent rise in output from factories, mines and utilities in January was a welcome reversal of the 0.6 percent contraction logged in December and better than market forecasts of a similar shrinkage this month.
But the numbers were far from the "green shoots" of recovery the scandal-plagued Congress government has been hoping for before general elections kick off in the world's biggest democracy in April.
The Indian government, which opinion polls suggest is headed for defeat in the elections, has forecast economic growth of 4.9 percent in the current financial year to March 2014.
But many private economists expect India's nearly $2-trillion economy to post growth in the low four percent range.
The economy expanded by 4.5 percent the previous year, the weakest pace in a decade -- half the rate recorded in the so-called "Indian summer" of the last decade when expansion was near double-digits.
Manufacturing output, which accounts for over three-quarters of the Index of Industrial Production, shrank by 0.7 percent in January from the same month a year ago.
The output of capital goods such as factory machinery, a strong indicator of investment intentions, contracted by 4.2 percent.