* Trade surplus of 2.9 bln Sfr in Nov
* Exports rise, driven by chemicals and pharma
* Machinery and electrical goods back in positive territory
(Adds details, analyst comment)
ZURICH, Dec 20 Swiss exports grew robustly in
November as strong sales to the United States and parts of Asia
helped offset more muted growth in its biggest trading partner
Europe, suggesting firms are weathering the effects off strong
Exports from Switzerland rose by a real 4 percent
year-on-year in November to 18.776 billion Swiss francs, the
Federal Customs Office said on Thursday.
"It's another strong number and the best of the year so far,
suggesting the Swiss economy remains resilient to the ongoing
problems seen in the euro zone," said Tony Nyman, an analyst at
Informa Global Markets.
Swiss exports have been helped by a cap the central bank
imposed on the soaring Swiss franc at 1.20 to the euro in 2011,
but have faced a further handicap from sluggish demand in
Despite faster-than-expected growth in the third quarter,
the Swiss National Bank said last week it expects growth to
significantly weaken in the final three months of the year as
the global economy stays fragile.
But Thursday's number shows demand for Swiss goods is
holding up, with exports of chemicals and pharmaceuticals rising
a real 11.1 percent, while sales abroad in the machinery and
electronics industry were in positive territory for the first
time in 16 months.
"The data give the impression that we have passed the trough
and confirms our prognosis that exports will once again start
contributing to Swiss growth in 2013," said Claude Maurer, head
of Swiss economic research at Credit Suisse.
"There are two reasons for this: by keeping the 1.20 lid on
the franc, the currency is depreciating in real terms, and
secondly the situation in Europe is tentatively improving."
A raft of recent data has also pointed to a rosier outlook
for the Swiss economy. Investor sentiment in December rose to
its highest level in seven months, while November industrial
production grew at a rate not seen since early 2011.
Sales to Asia increased by 8.7 percent and to the United
States by 21.3 percent in November.
This compared to a 1.1 percent rise in sales to the European
Union, with export growth held back by declining exports to
Italy - the country's second-biggest trading partner within the
bloc - which tumbled 11 percent.
Growth of exports of Swiss watches, for a long time the most
resilient of Swiss industries, slowed to a real 2.9 percent in
November, far below the average yearly trend of 8.4 percent.
Overall Switzerland ran a merchandise trade surplus of 2.946
billion Swiss francs in November, the second highest monthly
surplus ever registered.
At its quarterly policy review last week, the SNB forecast
growth in the region of 1-1.5 percent next year, at the upper
end of most analysts' forecasts.
(Reporting by Caroline Copley and Martin de Sa'Pinto; editing
by Chris Pizzey, London MPG Desk, +44 0 207 542-4441)