* Falling stocks suggest companies surprised by demand upturn (Adds details, analysts comments, background)
ZURICH, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Swiss industrial production grew at a rate not seen since early 2011 in November as manufacturers were surprised by an upturn in demand, data showed on Monday, signalling the economy could have passed a trough.
However, analysts cautioned it was far too early for the Swiss National Bank, which holds its quarterly policy meeting on Dec. 13, to lift the cap it imposed on the safe-haven franc more than a year ago to prevent a recession and deflation.
“We could say the trough has been reached and we are going deep into a recession,” said Julius Baer chief economist Janwillem Acket. “But it is not sounding the all clear. Employment figures are still getting worse and the figure is still under the growth threshold of 50 points.”
The index, compiled by the Swiss SVME purchasing managers’ association and Credit Suisse, rose to a seasonally adjusted 48.5 points from 46.1 points in October, the highest level since July and beating average analyst forecasts for 47.0 points. The index has been under the 50-point growth threshold since March.
“Production in November exceeded that of the previous month for the first time since July and displayed a momentum not seen since early 2011,” the index compilers said, adding that falling stock levels suggested firms were surprised by the upturn.
“Some of the demand has probably been satisfied with inventories so that production increases can be expected in the months to come.”
Data out last week showed the Swiss economy grew a faster-than-expected 0.6 percent in the third quarter.
But in a sign a recovery is not yet fully anchored, the leading KOF barometer fell last week to 1.50 points for November, its second consecutive decline and a bigger fall than forecast.
Meanwhile, Swiss retail sales rose 2.7 percent in October compared to a year ago, but fell 0.4 percent compared to the previous month.
“We still expect for 2013 a gradual acceleration of growth for Switzerland,” said Maxime Botteron of Credit Suisse.
“But the industrial sector will still be confronted with a strong Swiss franc and the situation in the euro zone will at best stabilise next year. Overall the situation will be a bit better but remain still challenging.”
“The SNB will keep its focus on the exchange rate for the time being. We don’t expect any change regarding the level of this floor.”
The SNB must keep the lid it has imposed on the franc for the foreseeable future or risk threatening price stability and economic growth, Chairman Thomas Jordan said last week.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said last week it expected the Swiss economy to recover in the second half of 2013 and the central bank should keep rates on hold for the time being.
Reporting by Emma Thomasson, Silke Koltrowitz, Martin de Sa'Pinto, Caroline Copley; Editing by Catherine Evans