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Swiss exports hit new record in 2015: Bern

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Swiss exports hit new record in 2015: Bern
The Swiss watch industry joined the group of exporters with bumper sales last year. Photo: Mike Chapman
15:21 CET+01:00
Switzerland's exports hit a record in 2014, expanding by 3.5 percent from the previous year to reach 208 billion francs ($225 billion), according to government figures released on Tuesday.

This exceeds the previous record of 2008 and with imports stagnating left a trading surplus of 30 billion francs , also a new record, the Federal Customs Administration (FCA) said.

It marked the fifth year in a row that Swiss exports have grown.

Chemicals and pharmaceuticals accounted for 60 percent, or 4.4 billion francs, of the increase in exports.

Swiss exports to the US and China climbed to a new high, while imports from Europe fell for the third year in a row.

The figures underscored the strength of the Swiss economy last year but the results came before the Swiss National Bank last month moved to abandon a policy to keep the Swiss franc pegged at a level of 1.20 against the euro.

That led to a surge in the value of the franc to parity with the euro, before the European common currency strengthened on Tuesday to around 1.05 francs.

A strong franc makes it more difficult for Swiss exporters to sell goods abroad and some economists have predicted Switzerland faces a recession this year, along with a cut in exports.

But Swiss companies have already shown an ability to adapt to a franc that traded for as little as 60 cents against the euro seven years ago.

The Swiss watch industry was among those reporting record exports last year.

However, the data doesn't augur well for the future as watch exports slowed in December, in particular in the key Chinese market.
   

Overall Swiss watch exports last year clocked in at a historic 22.2 billion francs ($23.9 billion), the FCA said.
   

The 1.9 percent increase from 2013 matched the growth rate that year.
   

After a sharp slowdown in 2009, Swiss watch exports have hit new heights year after year, with the sector long seeming immune to the economic and financial crises rocking the globe, thanks to Chinese consumers' appetite for luxury goods.
   

But after three years of double-digit growth, exports to China took a hit amid efforts to crack down on corruption in that country by banning extravagant gifts like prestigious watches to public officials.
   

The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FHS) noted that despite reaching a new record last year, 2014 closed on a negative note for watch exporters.
   

"In December their monthly value was 1.8 billion francs, down 2.5 percent on the previous year despite one extra working day," the federation said.
   

Exports to Hong Kong, a key market for Swiss watchmakers, fell 10.3 percent as the city continued to feel the impact of widespread pro-democracy demonstrations in the preceding months.
   
And exports to the vital Chinese market meanwhile fell 27.2 percent in December.
 
The FHS has not yet provided any outlook for exports in 2015.

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