German industrial orders unexpectedly dropped 2.7 percent in January compared with the previous month due to an unusually low number of big-ticket orders and a sharp drop in demand from abroad, official data showed Wednesday.
Economists had predicted a small rise in orders following a 1.6 percent increase in December _ a figure that was revised downward Wednesday from the initial reading of 1.7 percent.
However, the Economy Ministry said that the number of big orders for things such as ships and trains was well below the average for January.
It recorded 5.5 percent decreases both in orders from abroad and in total orders for investment goods such as factory machinery. Consumer goods orders were down 2.9 percent.
The decline in foreign demand was driven by an 8.6 percent drop in orders from outside the 17-nation eurozone. Orders from the eurozone were off only 0.4 percent following a big drop in December.
Overall orders from inside Germany, Europe's biggest economy, were up 0.9 percent on the month.
Alexander Koch, an economist at UniCredit in Munich, said the figures delivered a reminder that a recovery in industrial demand is looking bumpy.
However, "with the continuing improvement in emerging market demand, compensating for weakness in the eurozone, we keep our expectations of a gradual recovery" in the momentum of orders, Koch said.
He noted that business surveys show a more positive picture. A closely watched survey of German business confidence has shown four consecutive monthly rises as Germany continues to outperform debt-troubled partners in the eurozone.
Germany's industrial orders in January were down 2.1 percent compared with a year earlier following a 0.1 percent slip in December.