January 30, 2013 / 9:30 AM / in 5 years

UPDATE 1-Swiss leading indicator hits 8-mth low on euro zone weakness

* KOF falls to 1.05 points vs analyst consensus for 1.16

* KOF barometer seen as trailing other upbeat leading Swiss indicators

* Relief for Swiss exporters from weakening franc

* UBS consumption indicator rises to 1.34 points

* PMI data due on Feb. 1 (Adds details, analyst comment)

By Emma Thomasson

ZURICH, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Switzerland’s economic momentum slowed by more than expected in January, slipping to its lowest in eight months as weakness in the euro zone kept a lid on confidence, a leading indicator showed on Wednesday.

The KOF barometer, a gauge of the economy’s performance in about six months’ time, fell for the fourth straight month to 1.05 points in January from a revised 1.29 points in December, missing average analyst expectations for a fall to 1.16.

“The trend in the industrial sector is no longer as unfavourable as it had been lately,” the KOF said in a statement. “Nevertheless, the strain exerted on Swiss industrial enterprises by the weak European environment has not lifted.”

However, the KOF economists said the components of the barometer that measure sentiment on exports to the European Union and Swiss industry might be bottoming out.

“If the KOF indicator delivers on its promises then we are headed for a trough,” said Julius Baer chief economist Janwillem Acket.

“We expect the winter was much weaker than the third quarter, but the biggest uncertainty is from the second quarter. The KOF suggests we should be cautious.”

The economy grew faster than expected in the third quarter of 2012, but the Swiss National Bank said in December that it expected growth to significantly weaken in the final three months of 2012 as the global economy remained fragile.

The Swiss franc briefly ticked down against the euro after the release of the KOF data but soon recovered to trade at 1.245 by 0840 GMT.

Swiss exporters, hurt by the strength of the safe-haven franc since the start of the financial crisis, have welcomed the weakening of the currency to a 22-month low against the euro last week as confidence returns to the euro zone.

While the KOF is still painting a downbeat picture, other indicators suggest the economy is turning the corner.

“Even the KOF institute indicates that pessimism is declining at the moment in Swiss industry. Overall the KOF barometer seems to be rather a trailing rather than a leading indicator,” said Daniel Hartmann of Bantleon Bank.

The Swiss purchasing managers’ index (PMI) rose in December to its highest level since March and analysts are forecasting that the January figure, due out on Feb. 1, will cross the 50 point mark that signals growth in activity.

Earlier on Wednesday, the UBS Swiss consumption indicator rose to 1.34 points in December from 1.23 in November.

“The increase is mostly due to a greater number of hotel stays by Swiss residents. No improvement was reported in the retail industry, where business conditions still stagnate at a low level,” the UBS economists wrote.

The KOF economists said the barometer showed the Swiss construction sector was still upbeat and domestic consumption should continue to have a positive impact on the economy, although less than it did at the end of 2012. (Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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