California exports began the year on a mixed but generally positive note.

California businesses shipped merchandise valued at $12.61 billion in January, up 1.6 percent from $12.41 billion in January 2012, according to an analysis of U.S. Commerce Department trade figures by Beacon Economics, a consulting firm with offices in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

The gain was led by a 5.7 percent year-over-year increase in manufactured products sent abroad. However, exports of non-manufactured goods were down 0.5 percent, and re-exports fell 8.5 percent.

On the import side, California took in $30.5 billion in January, up about 3.4 percent from $29.5 billion in January last year. Some goods entering California go to other states, so exports are considered a more accurate measure of the state's trade health.

Nationally, the U.S. trade deficit grew 16.5 percent to $44.4 billion from December 2012 to January.

Exports of goods and services dipped 1.2 percent to $184.5 billion, which Commerce Department officials blamed on declining sales to Europe, China, Japan and Brazil.

Imports rose 1.8 percent to $228.9 billion as oil imports surged 12.3 percent.