Industrial orders dropped 3.4% in December from the previous month, data released on Feb. 7 by the economy ministry showed, partially erasing a jump of 5.2% in November.
Economists had expected a drop following a large number of big-ticket orders in November, but the general trend continued to improve, a ministry statement said.
German domestic orders lost 2.4% owing notably to lower demand for motor vehicles, while foreign orders were off by 4.2%.
Within the 17-nation eurozone however, industrial orders gained 3.7% in December, rebounding from a drop of 1.6% the previous month.
The economy ministry also released a two-month calculation designed to smooth out one-off events, and it showed a gain of 4.4% in November and December compared with September-October.
On an annual basis, industrial orders gained 20.2% according to the two-month measure, and the overall trend "remains clearly oriented upward and was more dynamic in the fourth quarter than the third quarter" of 2010, the ministry said.
A further breakdown of the numbers showed the biggest monthly drop was among orders from outside the eurozone, which fell by 8.9%, with those of capital goods used to make final products plunging by 15.5%.
The declines point to slowing global economic activity however, which in Europe is expected owing in part to wide-spread austerity measures aimed at reining in excessive public deficits and debt.
The German government expects 2011 growth of 2.3%, down from 3.6% last year that represents the strongest rate since Germany was reunified in late 1990.
But "with a pick-up in domestic investment and the strengthening of the U.S. economy, German industry should get enough fuel to continue running smoothly," ING senior economist Carsten Brzeski said.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011