German industrial output plunged unexpectedly in December and exports and imports also fell, data showed today, in a sign that Europe's largest economy ended 2015 on a weak footing. 

Industrial output fell by 1.2% on the month, the strongest decline since August 2014, data from the Economy Ministry showed. 

The figure fell short of the consensus forecast in a Reuters poll for a 0.4% increase. 

"Industrial production went through a dry spell at the end of 2015," the economy ministry said in a statement.

But it added that a rise in industrial orders in the fourth quarter pointed to an expansion in production at the start of this year. 

Separate data from the Federal Statistics Office showed that seasonally-adjusted exports fell by 1.6% in December while imports were also down by 1.6%, narrowing the trade surplus to €18.8 billion. 

Economists polled by Reuters had expected exports to rise by 0.5% and imports to go down by 0.5%. 

For all of 2015, Germany registered a new record trade surplus of €247.8 billion, up from €213.6 billion in 2014, the data showed.