STOCKS NEWS EUROPE-Watchmaker shares down on weak China exports

ZURICH, March 21 Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:05am EDT

ZURICH, March 21 (Reuters) - Shares in Swiss watchmakers Swatch Group and Richemont fall on Thursday after plummeting watch exports to their key growth market, Greater China, indicate a recovery in that region is not around the corner.

Swatch Group falls 2.1 percent to 532 Swiss francs at 1159 GMT and peer Richemont declines 3 percent to 74.15 francs, underperforming a 0.7 percent weaker European sector index .

Exports of timepieces to Hong Kong, the biggest market for Swiss watches, fell 24.4 percent in February, while sales to mainland China were down 33.6 percent.

"Further normalisation in exports is necessary to reflect weakness in underlying demand and elevated levels of inventories, 'channel stuffing' in Greater China last year," Citi analyst Thomas Chauvet says in a note.

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