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Swiss First-Quarter Exports Declined on European Demand

Swiss exports declined in the first quarter on flagging demand from the European Union, adding to signs the strong franc is hampering foreign sales.

Exports adjusted for inflation and working days fell 0.8 percent from the year-earlier period, the Federal Customs Office in Bern said in an e-mailed statement today. Imports rose 0.6 percent in the quarter and the trade surplus widened to 5.85 billion Swiss francs ($6.4 billion). Sales to EU countries declined 3 percent on a non-adjusted basis, while sales to Latin America and Asia climbed, according to the statement.

Slowing demand from the debt-laden euro area, Switzerland’s biggest market, is weighing on exports, which until now had defied the franc’s strength. On March 15, the government raised its 2012 forecast for export growth to 1.3 percent from 0.4 percent.

“Exports will climb in the coming months,” said Claude Maurer, an economist at Credit Suisse Group AG in Zurich. “However, given the euro area weakness, growth will be muted.”

In March, foreign sales, adjusted for inflation and seasonal swings, declined 2.5 percent from February, when they gained a revised 12 percent, the customs office said. Imports increased 4.6 percent and the trade surplus narrowed to 1.69 billion Swiss francs.

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