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Economy booms as exports surge

Foreign demand for Swiss goods rose substantially in the first quarter Keystone

The Swiss economy picked up pace in the first quarter of the year, growing by a real 0.9 per cent compared with the previous quarter.

This content was published on June 1, 2006 - 12:00

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) said on Thursday that on an annual basis growth of gross domestic product (GDP) had reached 3.5 per cent.

It said the acceleration was mainly due to stronger exports and a rise in capital investments but private consumption had also been strong.

Economists polled by the Reuters news agency had expected the annual growth figure to come in at slightly below three per cent.

Exports of goods and services during the first three months of 2006 rose 4.3 per cent, with goods providing most of the growth. Imports also increased, although to a lesser extent (+2.5 per cent).

Investments grew by 0.7 per cent, boosted by capital investments (+3.7 per cent).

Spending on construction fell - down 2.7 per cent - despite plenty of orders. Seco said this was due to a particularly long winter, which delayed projects.

Inflation

Other data showed that annual consumer price inflation reached 1.4 per cent in May, up from 1.1 per cent in April. This result was more than economists expected, but is still considered "benign".

The figures come one day after the Swiss Institute for Business Cycle Research (KOF) upped its economic barometer for economic growth to 2.30, its highest level in two years.

"If you look at yesterday's KOF leading indicator, we're heading for the strongest year since 2000, and this bodes well for the quarters ahead," said Janwillem Acket, the chief economist at the Julius Bär bank.

"Clearly there is an acceleration taking place in the Swiss economy in 2006."

Heightened indicators all around seem to support the Swiss National Bank's case for higher interest rates. Favourable economic data prompted the central bank to raise them in March for the second time in three months.

Most economists expect the bank to raise its target interest rate to 1.5 per cent at its meeting on June 15.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development recently revised its 2006 growth forecast for the Swiss economy from 1.7 per cent to 2.4 per cent.

In 2007, growth should ease slightly to 1.8 per cent.

Switzerland's economy, whose growth rate has long been lagging behind those of other industrialised nations, is this year set to perform better than in most eurozone countries.

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