German industrial orders, a key measure of demand for German-made goods both at home and abroad, fell sharply in April, underlining the still fragile state of the country's key manufacturing sector, data showed Thursday.
Following two months of consecutive increases, industrial orders suffered a setback in April, dragged down by falling domestic demand and a below-average number of big-ticket orders, the economy ministry said in a statement.
Industrial orders dropped by 2.3 percent in April compared with March, after rising by the same magnitude the previous month.
Analysts had been projecting a more modest decline.
The ministry said that domestic orders fell by 3.2 percent, while export orders declined by 1.5 percent.
By sector, orders for capital goods were down 3.6 percent and orders for semi-finished goods fell by 1.9 percent.
By contrast however, orders for consumer goods leapt by 7.5 percent.
"All in all, German factory orders suggest that manufacturing activity has started the second quarter on a soft tone after the surprising resilience registered in the first quarter," said Newedge Strategy analyst Annalisa Piazza.
UniCredit economist Alexander Koch said that "after the jump in orders in the preceding two months ... a breather at the beginning of the second quarter is no surprise at all.
"The strong up and down over the last two months was predominantly caused by bulk orders in the transport equipment sector," he said.
"Looking through monthly volatility, business conditions have clearly improved compared to summer/autumn last year. This bodes well for an ongoing gradual manufacturing recovery in the coming months," Koch added.
Postbank economist Heinrich Bayer said that "overall, the orders data remain on a modestly upwards trend. The setback in April suggests that the recovery could be a tough process, but there is no reason to abandon expectations of a moderate upturn."