Switzerland's sales abroad, adjusted for inflation and seasonal swings, increased 4.7 percent from February, when they declined 1.1 percent, the Federal Customs Office in Bern said today. The March increase is the biggest since December 2006.
Sales of Swiss products in Europe and Asia may maintain momentum in coming months even as the U.S. economy hovers near a recession, damping spending and investment there. Basel-based Novartis AG, Switzerland's second-largest drugmaker, posted a 10 percent gain in first-quarter profit after a 19 percent drop in U.S. sales was countered by higher revenue in Europe, Japan and Latin America and other emerging markets.
In Germany, the biggest buyer of Swiss exports, business confidence rose for a third month in March. The German economy, Europe's largest, is weathering the strains of record oil prices, a surging euro and a global credit squeeze.
Swiss companies may also be better positioned in specialized industries to withstand a global slowdown and the franc's 2.9 percent gain against the euro this year.
Still, with a deceleration in economic growth in the U.S. and Europe, Swiss exports probably won't be able to maintain the same rate of growth in coming months. Last month, the government said total export growth will likely slow to about 3 percent this year after about 10 percent expansion in each of the previous two years.
Swiss watch exports increased at the slowest pace in three years last month, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said today. Shipments to Hong Kong fell 2.5 percent and exports to the U.S. dropped 15 percent.