Confidence among German business leaders nudged slightly higher in September, a survey showed today, but expectations for the coming months darkened further.

The Ifo institute's headline business climate gauge climbed 0.3 points compared with August, to 94.6 points, the Munich-based researchers said in a statement. 

But while companies' judgment of the present business situation improved, adding 1.1 points to reach 98.5, expectations for the coming months fell 0.5 points, to 90.8. 

Levels above 100 in the Ifo survey show more firms are feeling positive than negative, while below 100 points to overall gloom. 

"The downturn is taking a breather," said Ifo chief Clemens Fuest in a statement. 

"Nevertheless, the outlook for the coming months has once again worsened," he added. 

Germany's export-oriented economy has suffered as trade protectionism, weakness in emerging markets and the threat of Brexit undermine confidence and sap demand for its products abroad. 

Many forecasters, including the Bundesbank and economy ministry, expect the euro zone powerhouse to grow by only around half a percent this year.

Projections now see the downswing persisting into 2020, with the OECD last week halving next year's growth outlook for Germany to 0.6%.