Gold imports narrow Swiss trade surplus
Switzerland’s trade surplus is affected by imported gold from Asia, and reduced demand for luxury Swiss watches.GENEVA - Switzerland's trade surplus was cut by over 27 percent in the first quarter due in part to a rise in imports of gold ornaments from Asia that are melted down and made into gold bars, data showed Thursday.
Swiss imports from Asia rose 43 percent due to a surge in the purchase of ornaments from Vietnam, described as an "Asian gold rush" by the Swiss federal customs office.
Swiss gold refiners such as Argor-Heraeus reported increased demand for gold as investors begin hoarding gold bars, a longstanding insurance in times of war or crisis.
Exports of items such as Switzerland's luxury watches fell sharply, affected by the global financial crisis which reduced demand for high-end consumer products, the data from the customs office showed.
The trade surplus for the period reached CHF 2.9 billion (EUR 1.9 billion, USD 2.5 billion), a fall of 27.2 percent compared to the same period in 2008, the Swiss federal customs office said in a statement.
Overall exports and imports fell by more than ten percent while trade with the European Union, Switzerland's largest trading partner, fell by more than one seventh year-on-year, the customs authority said in a statement.
These figures were the "worst result in ages," said the customs office.
Eight exporting sectors out of ten were hurt by the decline, with Swiss watchmakers experiencing a 23 percent drop in exports. Metals exports fell by 34 percent and textiles were down 28 percent.
The decline in Swiss watch exports accelerated in March, according to the Federation of Swiss Watch Industry.
"The value of products leaving Switzerland fell by 26.6 percent compared to March 2008," said the federation.
Most affected were watches costing between CHF 500 and 3,000, which fell by over 30 percent, while those costing over CHF 3,000 fell by over 20 percent.
Export volumes of the cheapest range of watches below CHF 200 also fell by over 10 percent.
Only those costing between CHF 200 and 500 increased, growing about 9 percent by export volume.
Export-dependant Switzerland is falling into a deep recession in 2009, with the economy projected to shrink 2.2 percent before a slight recovery in 2010, the Swiss economy ministry forecast.
AFP / Expatica