Asia's appetite for Switzerland's luxury goods, and in particular its high-precision watches, continues to keep the wolf from the door of the country's export sector, but the question is for how long.
Swiss exporters have long chaffed against the Swiss franc's spectacular appreciation versus the euro in the past two years, claiming it renders them uncompetitive in their key European markets, and the latest Swiss export data largely back their claims.
Last week Swiss machine and metal industry lobby group, Swissmem, said the high-flying franc has pushed more than a third of its members into the red, and almost three quarters say the Swiss National Bank's 1.20 Swiss franc-per-euro cap won't provide any sustainable improvement in their situation.
The Swiss customs office today said the sale of Swiss goods in Europe stagnated so far this year, while in Asia they climbed more than 10% as Switzerland ran up a CHF19.3 billion trade surplus with Asia, compared to an CHF18.2 billion deficit with its European neighbors.
Watches provide the main driver for exports to Asia, climbing 22% this year to reach CHF13.45 billion, with demand from Chinese consumers surging a remarkable 68%.
To top this, the president of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry Jean-Daniel Pasche said there are no signs yet of the trend flagging.
Others however are less convinced of the sustainability of such demand, and many Swiss manufacturers will be tempted to raise prices for their timepieces as they struggle to meet incoming orders.
'Last November we saw a 29% increase in Asian demand for Swiss watch, with orders from Hong Kong jumping 70%,' said Vontobel analyst Rene Weber.
Other Swiss exporters are less fortunate, and many companies, particularly pharmaceutical ones, are now having to trim their prices to keep a foothold in foreign markets.
Prices for Swiss goods slipped more than 7% in the 10 months through October, and this trend is likely to accelerate in coming months, further squeezing Swiss corporate profit margins.
'Export volumes have held up reasonably well in October, but the decline in export prices is a worrying trend, and one which can't continue over the longer term,' said Alessandro Bee, an economist at Bank Sarasin.
In addition, the level of Asian export growth is bound to 'normalize' in coming months as economies in the region slow, albeit it not at the same pace as the rest of the industrialized world.
Mr. Weber expects overall Swiss export growth in Asia to reach around 16% this year, but then there should be some 'normalization of demand' and he predicts expansion will ease to around 8% in 2012.
'We just can't carry on like this,' he said.
上周瑞士机床和金属行业游说团体Swissmem说，瑞士法郎币值飞涨已经令该团体超过三分之一的会员企业入不敷出，近四分之三的企业说瑞士央行（Swiss National Bank）设定的1欧元兑1.20瑞士法郎的汇率下限无法给他们的处境带来任何可持续的改善。
除此之外，瑞士钟表业联合会（Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry）主席帕施（Jean-Daniel Pasche）说，到目前为止没有迹象表明这股趋势无法延续。
瑞士私人银行Bank Sarasin的经济学家亚历山德罗•毕（Alessandro Bee）说，今年10月瑞士的出口数据相当不错，但出口商品价格下跌是一股令人担忧的趋势，在中长期内这股趋势无法延续。
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