German factory order books slumped more than forecast in April raising concerns that faltering global growth is catching up with Europe's biggest economy, data released Tuesday showed.

The Economics Ministry said monthly orders fell 1.9 per cent following a sharp drop in foreign demand. Economists had forecast a more-modest 1-per-cent contraction.

The industrial order data added to the grim economic picture of the 17-member eurozone, which emerged on Tuesday.

The European Union's statistics office Eurostat said retail sales in the currency bloc fell by a more-than-expected 1 per cent in April after nudging up by 0.3 per cent in March.

Meanwhile, the London-based economic research group Markit said its closely watched composite purchasing managers' index (PMI) for the eurozone posted its steepest fall since June 2009 during May.

At 46 points, the PMI for the eurozone's manufacturing and services sectors stands at a three-year low. It is also the fourth consecutive month that the index has recorded a reading of below 50, which marks a contraction in output.

“The final eurozone PMI indicates that the economy is contracting at the fastest pace for around three years,” said Markit's chief economist Chris Williamson.

“Companies report business activity to have been hit by heightened political and economic uncertainty, which has exacerbated already weak demand both in the euro area and further afield,” he said.

However, releasing the German industrial orders, the ministry pointed to a below average number of big-ticket foreign orders during April as a reason for the fall.

“As was the case with the rebound in March, the sharp decline in industrial orders in April was exaggerated by special factors,” the ministry said.

The ministry revised up its March figure to show order books surged by 3.2 per cent during the month.

Since then, however, signs have emerged that growth in key parts of the world economy such as China and the United States, could have lost momentum.

At the same time, Europe's austerity drive has pushed many of Germany's key trading partners in the eurozone into recession.

Leading the April drop in orders was a 3.6-per-cent fall in total foreign orders. Domestic orders edged up by 0.4 per cent.

While orders from nations outside the eurozone, such as the United States and leading emerging economies, tumbled by 4.7 per cent in April, orders from the currency bloc declined by 1.8 per cent.

The April fall in total foreign orders largely cancelled out the 4.4-per-cent gain during March, the data showed. - Sapa-dpa