Swiss Inflation Unexpectedly Weakens on Franc Surge

Swiss inflation unexpectedly slowed in January as the franc’s appreciation helped push down the cost of imported goods.

Consumer prices increased 0.3 percent from a year earlier after advancing 0.5 percent in December, the Federal Statistics Office in Neuchatel said in an e-mailed statement today. Economists had forecast a gain of 0.6 percent, according to the median of 13 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. The price of imported products fell an annual 0.7 percent after climbing 0.3 percent in December, according to the statement.

The Swiss franc has gained 12 percent versus the euro and 11 percent versus the dollar over the past year, helping counter surging commodity costs. The Swiss central bank in December kept borrowing costs near zero and forecast inflation to average 0.4 percent this year as economic growth weakens.

“The franc’s gain is impacting Swiss inflation,” said Claude Maurer, an economist at Credit Suisse Group AG in Zurich. “Still, risks remain to the upside over the coming months.”

The Swiss franc weakened against the euro after the report, trading as low as 1.3176. It was at 1.3116 at 10:37 a.m. in Zurich, up from 1.3153 yesterday.

In the month, consumer prices fell 0.4 percent and the costs of imported goods decreased 1.9 percent, today’s statement said. Core inflation, which excludes volatile components like food and energy, fell 0.7 percent in the month and was unchanged from the previous year.

Swiss consumers last month became more confident in the outlook of their own financial situation over the coming 12 months, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs in Bern said today, citing a survey of 1,100 households. A larger share of shoppers also considered it a good time for purchases of big-ticket items such as cars and households, the report showed.

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