The German economy, Europe's biggest, grew more than expected in the first three months of 2016, driven primarily by robust domestic demand, official data showed today. 

German gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by 0.7% in seasonally and calendar-adjusted terms in the period from January to March, the federal statistics office Destatis said in a statement. 

That was faster than the growth of 0.3% notched up in the preceding quarter and also faster than the 0.5% analysts had been predicting for the first quarter of this year. 

"Positive impulses came primarily from domestic demand," the statisticians said. 

"Private households and the government increased their spending and investments were also higher," the statement continued. 

The mild weather boosted activity in the construction sector and investment in equipment also increased. 

By contrast, foreign trade had a moderately dampening effect because exports did not grow as fast as imports, meaning the overall trade surplus - the balance between imports and exports - fell, Destatis said. 

On a 12-month basis, GDP expanded by 1.3% in the three months from January to March compared with the same period a year earlier. 

The data are still only preliminary. A more detailed breakdown of the different GDP components will be published on May 24, Destatis said.