German industrial orders unexpectedly dropped 2.7 per cent 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 on Wednesday. Economists had predicted a small rise in orders following a 1.6 per cent increase in December -a figure that was revised downward on Wednesday from the initial reading of 1.7 per cent. 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 per cent decreases both in orders from abroad and in total orders for investment goods such as factory machinery. Consumer goods orders were down 2.9 per cent. The decline in foreign demand was driven by an 8.6 per cent drop in orders from outside the 17-nation eurozone. Orders from the eurozone were off only 0.4 per cent following a big drop in December. Overall orders from inside Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, were up 0.9 per cent 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 per cent compared with a year earlier following a 0.1 per cent slip in December. The German economy shrank by 0.2 per cent in the fourth quarter on weakening exports and private consumption. Many economists had hoped it could remain stable in the first three months of 2012, thereby avoiding the two successive quarters of contraction, which define a recession. So far a solid job market has helped prop up consumer spending and business sentiment, surveys revealed.