* Trade surplus of 2.6 bln Swiss francs in Jan
* Exports rise a real 4.7 percent
* Sales to North America up 11.2 percent
ZURICH, Feb 20 Swiss exports grew robustly in
January, supported by strong sales of chemicals and
pharmaceuticals and helped by buoyant demand from North and
Exports from Switzerland rose by a real 4.7 percent in
January to 17.110 billion Swiss francs ($19.27 billion), while
imports slipped 0.2 percent to 14.515 billion, the Federal
Customs Office said on Thursday.
Adjusted for seasonal factors, exports rose by a real 2.5
percent, while imports fell 2.3 percent.
Exports grew in six of the 10 most important sectors. Sales
of pharmaceuticals and chemicals, the country's biggest export
category, were up by a real 11.3 percent, while sales of watches
rose 5 percent.
The increase in exports adds to data suggesting sustained
economic growth after 0.5 percent growth in the third quarter of
last year. The Swiss government expects the export recovery to
spur 2.3 percent growth in 2014, up from an estimated 1.9
percent in 2013.
Switzerland's manufacturing sector accelerated in January
with well-stocked order books pointing to further expansion
ahead, while consumer prices inched up for the third month in a
row, adding to signs that deflation pressures are easing.
Swiss exports have been supported by a cap the central bank
imposed on the soaring franc currency in 2011, but have suffered
from sluggish demand in Europe.
Sales to Europe - the country's biggest trading partner -
rose by a nominal 2.8 percent, with sales to Britain
particularly strong, up 32.3 percent.
In North and Latin America, Swiss exports rose 11.2 and 29.3
Overall, Switzerland ran a merchandise trade surplus of 2.6
billion Swiss francs.
($1 = 0.8878 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)