A Lausanne-based economics research group is more optimistic than most about prospects for the Swiss economy this year, forecasting growth of 1.7 per cent.
The Créa Institute of Applied Macroeconomics expects growth in gross domestic product (GDP) to increase by 2.3 per cent in 2003 and 2.5 per cent in 2004.
Only last week, the Swiss Institute for Business Cycle Research (KOF) revised downward its forecast for the economy this year from 1.7 per cent to 1.2 per cent.
Last Wednesday, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs in Bern predicted that GDP growth this year would be one per cent, the same figure also put forward by the Swiss National Bank.
In its forecast summary released on Tuesday, Créa said one of the stabilising factors in the economy last year had been private consumption.
"Without too much risk of being wrong, one can say that it was only thanks to household consumption that the Swiss economy did not slide into recession in 2001," it said.
Créa said that investment in equipment had been particularly hard hit and that since August negative figures had been noted, in particular concerning business trends in industry as a whole.
It added that practically all key sectors of Swiss exports had been slowing down and that "the trough of the downward cycle" did not seem yet to have been reached.
However, the summary noted that companies were "moderately optimistic" and were expecting a recovery in activity in the second half of the year.
At the international level, the future trend of the economy would depend much on that of the United States, the Créa summary commented.
The Institute says the Swiss franc will remain strong in the coming months, hindering to some extent the recovery of the Swiss export market.
Private consumption will remain the motor of the economy at the beginning of this year, with economic recovery taking off in the second half of the year driven by stronger exports, the summary said.
Créa predicted that inflation would remain weak this year. Although there was pressure for increases in the price of oil, this should not last.
It added that the central bank would probably maintain low interest rates, partly to fight against a strengthening of the Swiss franc and partly to support economic recovery.
swissinfo with agencies