* Exports rise by real 2.2 pct y/y in July
* ZEW sentiment indicator hits 9.1 pts in August
(Adds ZEW indicator)
By Catherine Bosley
ZURICH, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Switzerland posted a record trade surplus in July and although the pace of export growth slowed, the economy is expected to maintain momentum in the third quarter.
Exports from Switzerland rose 2.2 percent in real terms in July to 16.776 billion Swiss francs ($13.32 billion), the Federal Customs Office said on Thursday. Overall, Switzerland ran a merchandise trade surplus of 2.886 billion Swiss francs, its biggest ever, the office said.
Export growth eased from a 12 percent year-on-year surge in shipments in June although June figures were helped by a base effect.
Despite concerns a strong franc could hurt exports, confidence in Switzerland's economic outlook is improving and the ZEW investor sentiment index jumped to 9.1 points in August, from 2.2 percent in July, data showed on Thursday. [ID:nZAT010965]
The Swiss franc, which investors regard as a safe haven, rallied more than 10 percent against the euro in the first six months of the year. That raised fears it would hurt exports, but so far there has been little evidence to support this.
"I expect that in the third quarter things will continue to be strong. If you look at German GDP figures, how exports are booming in Germany, we can expect that Swiss exports will continue to be strong," ZKB economist David Marmet said.
The euro zone is Switzerland's biggest trading partner. Last week data showed Germany's economy grew by 2.2 percent in the second quarter -- its fastest quarterly expansion since reunification. [ID:nLDE67C0AI]
"It's possible that we will see a certain flattening as a result of the (strong) franc. But on the other hand imports have contracted more strongly compared to the previous months, so I don't think you can attribute that to the exchange rate," Marmet said.
The customs office said the rise in exports was chiefly due to growth in demand outside Europe. Watches posted a nominal 19.9 percent increase, followed by metals and precision instruments.
June's trade balance was revised to 1.71 billion francs and exports were revised to 17.254 billion francs.
(Additional reporting by Silke Koltrowitz and Katie Reid; Editing by Susan Fenton)