BERLIN (Reuters) - German industrial orders dropped far more than expected in April as factories lacked new contracts for big ticket items, data showed on Wednesday, suggesting the sector started the second quarter on a rather weak footing.
Factories saw their orders slump by 2.1 percent in April after contracts for "Made in Germany" goods rose in the previous two months, data from the Economy Ministry showed.
That undershot by a long stretch the Reuters consensus forecast for a 0.4 percent drop but followed a slightly upwardly revised increase of 1.1 percent in March.
"At first glance, these disappointing April data seem to be at odds with buoyant confidence indicators and are anything but a good start to the second quarter," said ING economist Carsten Brzeski.
But he said the timing of Easter - which fell in April this year - was likely to blame and in the past the sector had ultimately recovered from delays caused by holidays.
"Order books are still richly filled to ensure good production data in the months ahead," Brzeski said.
The Economy Ministry said the number of large-scale contracts was below average for April. Adjusted to take account of that, orders overall were unchanged on the month.
A breakdown of the April data showed domestic demand decreased by 0.2 percent and foreign orders slumped by 3.4 percent. Demand from non-euro zone countries plunged by 4.8 percent while euro zone countries put in 1.4 percent fewer orders.
On the less volatile two-month comparison, orders increased by 1.8 percent but the level of contracts placed in April was 0.2 percent below the average level seen in the first quarter, the ministry said.
The data comes after a survey showed factory activity helped push Germany's private sector growth to a six-year-high in May as demand from both domestic and foreign clients, especially in Asia, picked up.
The German economy expanded by 1.9 percent last year, the strongest rate in half a decade, as private consumption, state spending and construction increased. That momentum continued into early 2017, with the economy growing by 0.6 percent in the January-March period, helped by higher exports.
Editing by Madeline Chambers/Jeremy Gaunt