ZURICH, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Swiss exports fell in August on declining trade with the European Union, with the pharmaceutical and machinery branches sagging even as exports of Swiss watches improved, the Federal Customs Office said on Thursday.
Exports from Switzerland slipped by 4.6 percent in August in real terms to 14.652 billion Swiss francs ($15.83 billion), due in part to one less working day in the month. Allowing for the missing day they were down 0.5 percent.
Watch exports rose 2.7 percent on an annual basis, but exports of pharmaceuticals and chemicals, the country’s biggest export category, fell 1.8 percent while machines and electronic devices were down 2.6 percent.
Swiss exports have been supported by a cap the central bank imposed on the soaring franc currency in 2011, but are still suffering from sluggish demand in the euro zone, the country’s biggest trading partner.
In Asia, luxury goods groups like Richemont and Swatch Group have also been grappling with weak demand in their most important growth market, China, although there have been some signs of an upturn.
The Swiss National Bank is expected to reaffirm its commitment to defend its 1.20 per euro lid on the safe-haven currency at its September monetary policy assessment due at 0730 GMT.
But some analysts have begun to speculate that cap may prove increasingly unneeded as the franc could now start to hand back some of the huge gains it made after the 2008 financial crisis as the world returns to stronger economic growth. ($1 = 0.9255 Swiss francs) (Reporting by Alice Baghdjian; editing by Patrick Graham)