On Wednesday, the office reported factory orders also slipped. In both cases, economists had been predicting increases, and the developments raised speculation Germany might have contracted in the fourth quarter of 2018 for the second quarter in a row, meaning it entered a technical recession.
Last week, the government slashed its 2019 economic growth forecast from 1.8 percent to 1 percent. Germany's economy grew 1.5 percent last year and 2.2 percent in 2017. In January, officials said it appeared Germany had avoided recession, but fourth-quarter numbers haven't yet been finalized.