Swiss Watch Exports Fall for Eighth Month on Hong Kong Slip

  • Shipments to Hong Kong, industry's largest market, decline 25%
  • Exports to U.S. gain 2.4%, after five months of decline

Swiss watch exports fell for an eighth consecutive month as shipments to Hong Kong extended a one-year rut caused by rich Chinese traveling to cheaper locations to buy expensive timepieces.

Shipments slid 3.3 percent to 1.65 billion Swiss francs ($1.7 billion) in February, or by 7.9 percent adjusted for the number of working days in the month, according to data from Switzerland’s customs office. Exports to Hong Kong fell 25 percent, declining for a 13th month, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said in a separate statement.

Swiss watchmakers have been grappling with waning demand in China amid a crackdown on bribery and extravagant spending among government officials. They also are suffering from a drop in tourists to Europe after the November terrorist attacks in Paris, a falloff likely to be exacerbated by reports of explosions at Brussels Airport Tuesday.

“This has been mainly caused by continuous weakness in the world’s largest export market, Hong Kong,” Zuzanna Pusz, an analyst at Berenberg in London, wrote in a note. Japan continues to benefit from increased Chinese tourism at the expense of Hong Kong, she said.

Swatch Group shares fell 0.5 percent to 335.3 Swiss francs at 9:02 a.m. in Zurich. Richemont slipped 0.9 percent to 63.10 francs.

Shipments to Japan rallied 22 percent, while timepieces headed to the U.S., the second-largest export market, rose 2.4 percent, ending five months of declines.

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