BERLIN (AP) -- German industrial orders increased by a healthy 4.4 percent in May over the previous month, with demand from outside Europe rising the most strongly, government figures showed Tuesday.
The strong performance followed a minimal 0.1 percent increase in April and adds to other indications that the outlook for Germany's export-dependent economy -- Europe's biggest -- is becoming rosier. Recent surveys have shown rising business and consumer confidence.
The Economy Ministry said orders from within Germany were up 3.9 percent in May, while those from outside the 16-nation euro zone were up 8.2 percent. Orders from Germany's partners in the euro zone rose by a comparatively feeble 1.2 percent.
A ministry statement said that orders increased across all sectors, with the car and auto parts industries seeing a 9.8 percent increase in orders.
The third consecutive monthly increase in industrial orders was "more than a coincidence," said Andreas Rees, an economist at UniCredit in Munich.
"Rising new orders are increasingly reflecting improving fundamentals," Rees wrote in a research note. He added "the odds for a V-shaped recovery after the summer break have increased" -- referring to a chart of economic performance in which the downturn is followed by a swift upturn.
The government and economists have forecast that the German economy will shrink by 6 percent or more this year and post at best minimal growth in 2010.
Earlier Tuesday, the Federal Statistical Office reported that German iron and steel output fell sharply on the year in June, but was up on the month.
Iron production was up 22.1 percent compared with May and steel production up 13.7 percent, the office said. However, in year-on-year terms, iron production shrank by nearly 45 percent and steel production by 41 percent.