German industrial orders rose less than expected in March after two months of steep declines, data showed today, bringing little relief for Europe's largest economy which is facing a sharp slowdown in growth. 

Contracts for 'Made in Germany' goods were up 0.6%, figures from the Federal Statistics Office showed, undershooting a consensus forecast of 1.5%. 

The rise in March was mainly due to bulk orders, the economy ministry said. 

"The industrial orders data suggests that activity in manufacturing will remain subdued in the coming months," it added. 

Excluding bulk orders, industrial orders fell by 1.9% in March, the ministry said. 

German exporters are struggling with weaker demand from abroad, trade tensions triggered by US President Donald Trump's "America First" policies and business uncertainty caused by Britain's planned departure from the European Union. 

Domestic factors include problems in the car industry where companies are struggling to adjust to stricter emission rules. 

Unusually low Rhine water levels, which have led to supply and production bottlenecks, also contributed to the slowdown. 

For the first quarter as a whole, industrial orders fell by 4.1% on the quarter with the drop mainly driven by weaker demand from abroad, the economy ministry said.

The industrial orders reading for February was revised slightly up to a fall of 4% from a previously reported drop of 4.2%.