Germany’s economic recovery unexpectedly lost momentum in the fourth quarter as output failed to grow from the previous three months, official data showed on Friday.

The preliminary data for the October-December period show gross domestic product was unchanged compared with the previous three months, after quarterly gains in both the second and third quarters brought Europe’s biggest economy out of a deep recession.

The German government’s Federal Statistical Office identified exports, the traditional driver of the German economy, as the “only positive contribution.”

Otherwise, imports, consumer spending, and capital investment all fell, dragging the economy to stagnation.

When compared with a year earlier, the country’s GDP decreased by 2.4 percent. However, that decline was markedly smaller than in the third quarter of 2009, when it sunk by 4.8 percent on the year.

Germany went into recession in 2008 as demand for its exports dried up amid the global economic crisis.

After shrinking for four straight quarters, including an 3.5 percent slump in the first quarter of 2009, the country technically emerged from recession with growth in the second quarter of 2009. That, in part, helped the 16-nation eurozone to improve economically.

The Federal Statistical Office will release more detailed data for the fourth quarter at the end of February.

Analysts seemed optimistic despite the stagnation.

“The situation of the German economy is fundamentally far better than it looks like from a statistical viewpoint,” said Andreas Rees, the chief German economist for UniCredit.

“Just look out your window and you know why,” he said. “The harsh winter weather is depressing construction activity.”

Looking forward, Mr. Reed said that “The odds have risen that the first quarter 2010 figure may disappoint as well.”

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