Vibrant Asian demand propped up Swiss trade last year despite the rising Swiss franc, as Switzerland’s flagship watch industry restored its exports to pre-crisis levels, authorities said Thursday.
The Swiss watch industry’s federation (FH) reported a “very clear cut recovery” in 2010 as exports grew by 2.9 billion francs ($3 billion) over the previous downturn year to 16.2 billion francs.
“This growth of 22.1 percent clearly indicates a return to a healthy and robust situation for Swiss watchmaking, with a level slightly higher than the 2007 result, which was considered at the time to be excellent,” the federation added.
Swiss watch exports to Hong Kong — the biggest foreign market accounting for more than 3.0 billion francs — grew by 46 percent in a year, while China (+57%) and Singapore (+33%) were the other fastest growing export markets.
Asia absorbed more than half the total value of Swiss watch exports in 2010, growing at nearly three times the rate recorded in the Americas and Europe.
The watchmaking federation said there were already signs so far this year that the recovery was on “firm foundations” and set to continue in 2011.
Meanwhile Switzerland’s overall foreign trade “held up well in 2010, given the strength of the Swiss franc,” the federal customs office said.
Although exporters were forced to cut prices due to the strong Swiss currency, Asia was “once again the most vibrant source of demand,” it added.
Overall Swiss exports grew last year by 7.1 percent to 193 billion Swiss francs, while imports rose 8.4 percent to 174 billion in 2010.
The trade surplus declined for the first time since 2005, by 3.8 percent to 19.6 billion francs.
Although the surplus was dampened by a steep increase in a trade deficit with the European Union, Switzerland’s biggest foreign market, it was the second highest on record, the customs authority said.
The franc, which investors regard as a refuge currency in times of crisis, has gained 10 percent against the dollar over the past year and 15 percent against the euro amid uncertainty over the global economic recovery.