BERLIN (Reuters) - German firms invested 59.8 billion euros ($64.1 billion) in tangible assets last year, the Federal Statistics Office said on Wednesday, up 3.5 percent from the prior year and close to the record levels of 2008.


Helped by a steady rise in employment levels, low interest rates and rising real wages, Europe's biggest economy is increasingly dependent on strong domestic demand to drive growth to offset weakness in foreign trade.


While Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, running a budget surplus, is lifting public investment in infrastructure, many economists say private investment also needs to pick up to boost anaemic growth rates.


The German economy grew more slowly than expected in the third quarter of this year as exports fell after Britain's vote to leave the European Union.


The biggest increase in investment last year came from the rubber and plastics sector which saw a 16.4 percent rise to 3.4 billion euros. Investment in the electrical equipment and chemical products branches dipped slightly.

German investments hit a record 60 billion euros in 2008.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; editing by John Stonestreet)