Switzerland's sales abroad, adjusted for inflation and seasonal swings, decreased 5.8 percent from March, the Federal Customs Office in Bern said today. The trade balance rose to 1.57 billion francs ($1.53 billion) from a revised 1.27 billion francs the previous month.
The franc's 20 percent gain against the dollar in the past year is making Swiss products less competitive abroad just as the credit crisis sparked by the U.S. housing slump hurts financial- services exports. Jona, Switzerland-based Holcim Ltd., the world's second-biggest cement maker, reported a drop in first- quarter earnings as the U.S. construction market deteriorated.
Shipments of chemicals declined an adjusted 2 percent in the first four months of the year, while sales of clothing fell 6.8 percent, today's report showed.
The government estimated in March that total export growth will slow to about 3 percent this year after about 10 percent in each of the previous two years.
New orders from Asia and Europe helped boost Swiss manufacturing last month. In Germany, Europe's largest economy, confidence gauges for consumers and businesses improved in May, a sign that demand there is weathering a global economic slowdown.
Sales of Swiss manufactured goods will probably maintain momentum this year as orders from Asia and Latin America offset cooling demand from the U.S., Swiss Economy Minister Doris Leuthard said May 23. Still, a slowing global economy, waning financial-services exports and the franc's gain against the dollar will probably hurt overall growth of sales abroad, Leuthard said.
April exports rose an inflation-adjusted 18.3 percent from a year earlier after an early Easter this year added 3 working days compared with the 2007 month. Sales of machines and electronics gained an adjusted 8.3 percent in the first four months of the year, while exports of precision instruments added 9.2 percent and watch sales increased 8 percent.