German exports fell 3.4 percent in November, from the previous month.
However they remained at the same level as a year earlier.
That was because of a 5.5 percent rise in exports to countries outside the European Union, while those to other areas, particularly eurozone countries, fell sharply.
Industrial orders were also down slightly more than expected in November because of weaker foreign demand.
The numbers reinforced concerns that Europe’s largest economy may have contracted in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Seasonally and price-adjusted order intake dropped by 1.8 percent on the month, coming in below the mid-range forecast in a Reuters poll of 29 economists for contracts to fall by 1.4 percent on the month.
Domestic bookings increased by 1.3 percent while foreign orders fell by 4.1 percent. Orders from the euro zone inched up 0.2 percent but contracts from countries outside the currency union slumped by 6.5 percent.
The Economy Ministry played down the decline. “A decline in orders after a strong month is not unusual,” the ministry said in a statement. “Overall, demand seems to be stabilising. The slight improvement in sentiment indicators also points to this,” added the ministry.
The Ifo index, a key barometer of economic health in Germany, showed morale at German businesses rising in both November and December.
Germany’s private sector expanded for the first time in eight months in December as the services sector rebounded, a survey from the purchasing managers’ survey showed last week.
Germany’s economy has weathered the three-year euro zone debt crisis well but it slowed in the third quarter of last year. Economists expect it to have contracted in the fourth quarter of 2012 but generally see it escaping a recession before gradually improving later this year.
Get a different perspective
Every story can be told in many ways: see the perspectives from Euronews journalists in our other language teams.