German industrial production down again in February

BERLIN — Industrial production in Germany dropped for a second consecutive month in February, official data showed Friday, a showing that increases the likelihood of Europe’s biggest economy having contracted in the first quarter.

The Economy Ministry said that production was down 2% compared with the previous month. The unexpected decline followed a 1.6% drop in January. A bout of harsh winter weather that weighed on construction may have been a factor.

The ministry said that increasing business confidence and increases in factory orders point to “a positive outlook for industrial activity in the coming months.”

Germany’s economy grew 0.3% in last year’s fourth quarter compared with the previous three-month period.

But with Friday’s data, “it is hard to see how the German economy could escape a contraction in the first quarter,” ING economist Carsten Brzeski wrote in a research note. That would take “an explosion of manufacturing and construction activity in March,” he said.

In a separate report Friday, the Federal Statistical Office said German exports were up 0.9% in February over the previous month, while imports were up 3.6%.

In year-on-year terms, exports were down 1.2% and imports rose 0.9%. Exports to Britain, which left the European Union’s economic structures at the end of last year, dropped 12.2% on the year in February, following a 29% decline in January.

Imports from the U.K. were down 26.9% following a 56.2% slump in January.

Germany’s economy did better last year than several others in Europe as it was supported by manufacturing, which has taken less of a hit than services during the pandemic.

German authorities haven’t imposed any shutdowns on industry during the crisis, but many restrictions on businesses such as restaurants, bars, hotels and leisure facilities remain in place.