Sales abroad, adjusted for seasonal swings and inflation, rose 8.3 percent from March, when they fell 6.6 percent, the Federal Customs Office in Bern said today. Imports declined 0.3 percent and the trade surplus widened to 2.6 billion Swiss francs ($2.4 billion) from 151 million francs in March.
The Swiss central bank has cut borrowing costs close to zero and bought foreign currencies to weaken the franc after the global economic slump curbed export demand and prompted companies to cut spending and jobs. Swiss investor confidence rose in May and Swatch Group AG said on May 15 it expects sales to increase in the second half of the year.
The Swiss National Bank has forecast that the economy will shrink as much as 3 percent this year. That would be the worst performance since 1975. The global economy may contract 1.3 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund.
With the euro area economy, Switzerland’s largest export market, set to shrink by 4 percent this year, exports may remain under pressure. European industrial orders slumped 27 percent in March from a year earlier, according to data this month.
Swiss exports dropped 14 percent in the four months through April from a year earlier while imports declined 8.2 percent, today’s report showed.
In April, foreign sales of chemicals declined 9.5 percent from a year ago and the metals industry exported 40 percent fewer goods. Exports of machinery and electronics dropped 30 percent.
Still, data suggest the slump may be easing. Swiss leading economic indicators dropped less than economists expected in April and the country’s manufacturing industry contracted at a weaker pace.