Swiss March exports slip on fewer work days, weak demand for machines, watches

Tue Apr 23, 2013 3:27am EDT

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* Trade surplus of 1.9 bln Swiss francs in March

* Exports fall a real 2 pct, adjusted for working days up 7.3 pct

* Weaker demand for machines and watches

ZURICH, April 23 (Reuters) - Swiss exports fell in March, dragged down mainly by there being two fewer working days in the month, but also by some loss of momentum in the watch and machinery sectors.

Exports from Switzerland fell by a real 2.0 percent in March to 16.95 billion Swiss francs, the Federal Customs Office said on Tuesday.

When adjusted for the smaller number of working days exports rose by a real 7.3 percent, the office said.

"We see some big differences between sectors," said ZKB analyst Cornelia Luchsinger. "The watch industry has lost a lot of its dynamic, and this seems to be a trend, and machinery has been in negative territory for quite a while, which is also a negative for the labour market."

Exports from the machinery and electronics sector, the country's second biggest export category, tumbled by a real 9.3 percent, while sales abroad of watches slid 5.4 percent.

The downbeat trade figures add to other data suggesting the Swiss recovery is slowing.

Swiss manufacturing shrank in March for the first time since December, while the KOF barometer, a gauge of the Swiss economy's performance in about six months' time, also cooled more than expected.

The bleaker outlook chimes with recent comments from the Swiss National Bank, which has warned that the euro zone crisis could trigger fresh inflows into the franc.

Swiss exports have been helped by a cap the central bank imposed on the soaring franc currency in 2011, but have faced a further handicap from sluggish demand elsewhere in Europe, the country's biggest trading partner bloc. Sales to Europe fell 6.4 percent in March.

"The euro zone crisis is weighing on Switzerland, which is very intertwined with the euro zone economies," said Sarasin economist Jan Poser.

"I wouldn't attribute the fall in exports too much to the strong Swiss franc, although it remains a headwind."

Switzerland's sales to the 17-nation euro zone were down 5.7 percent in March.

Overall, Switzerland ran a merchandise trade surplus of 1.9 billion Swiss francs in March. (Reporting by Martin de Sa'Pinto and Caroline Copley; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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