The recent weakness in German industrial production has also raised concerns that Germany will suffer at least one quarter of negative economic output.
The difficult European conditions were evident in sales figures earlier from Volkswagen AG. The car giant reported a 6.5 percent drop in sales in western Europe, excluding Germany, to 1.85 million vehicles. German sales fared moderately better, rising 1.9 percent to 1.18 million vehicles.
The hope for Europe's manufacturers going into 2013 is that the recent improvement in financial markets, not least in the dramatic falls seen in the borrowing rates of some of the euro's more embattled members, will continue and help reduce uncertainty.
"If that happens, businesses may become more prepared to place manufacturing orders that had been delayed or cancelled," said Howard Archer, chief European economist at IHS Global Insight. "It may also foster a pick-up in business investment."
Archer said it was notable that the figures showed both the sale of durable goods, such as cars, and non-durable goods, such as day-to-day consumer goods, were both down.
He said that "ties in with evidence that hard-pressed eurozone consumers remain unwilling or unable to spend, particularly on big-ticket items."
David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.