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Couchepin remains upbeat about the stock market

The Swiss economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, has every confidence in the Swiss economy Keystone Archive

The Swiss economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, says he is optimistic about the future of the stock market, following a week of dramatic lows on Wall Street.

“[Recently] we have seen the stock market go through a turbulent time,” Couchepin said in an interview in the French-speaking newspaper “Le Temps”.

“But this market drop happened after many years of healthy trading, so it was foreseeable. It’s just that the bubble has burst,” he added, explaining that he thinks the latest drop in share prices is part of the normal economic cycle.

“I was always said that new economy stocks would not produce miracles and that the main aim of any business is to make profit,” he continued, drawing attention to the recent American accounting scandals, which have led to the collapse of Enron and WorldCom.

Swiss confidence

When questioned on whether such scandals could occur on Swiss soil, Couchepin was emphatic. ” I have every confidence in Swiss firms,” he said. “There is absolutely no evidence which would make me suspect Swiss companies of accounting mispractice.”

But despite the market crash precipitated by the United States’ corporate scandals, Couchepin predicts that markets will pick up in the long-term and that Switzerland is well-prepared to weather the storm.

“We have a low inflation rate and unemployment remains low….at around 2.5 per cent. Productivity is in good shape and there is still a lot of money being invested in research,” he says. All of this, he adds, bodes well for the Swiss economy.

Strong Swiss franc

His main concern however is the strength of the Swiss franc, seen by many as a safe haven currency in times of economic turmoil. The franc has steadily risen against the dollar and the euro making Swiss exports more expensive on global markets.

But Couchepin was also optimistic about the high value of the franc. “In many ways it’s a positive thing,” he says. “It’s a sign that the international community recognises the strength of the Swiss economy.”

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR