Switzerland's largest export sector, the mechanical and electrical engineering industries, saw overseas sales rise by more than 13 per cent in 2000 to SFr59 billion ($35 billion).
In a statement on Thursday, the industries' umbrella organisation, Swissmem, said the "exceptionally positive" performance had been achieved against a background of robust domestic demand and strong world economic growth.
It said sales overall had climbed by 11 per cent thanks largely to strong investment spending by customers, particularly in the first half of last year.
Swissmem said companies also profited from improvements in their competitiveness as a result of far-reaching restructuring in the 1990s.
The organisation said that on an annual basis there was a clear 14.8 per cent increase in incoming orders compared with 1999. The rise was slightly greater for domestic orders than for foreign orders.
Commenting on the performance, Swissmem said that foreign sales had risen by 11.8 per cent, while domestic sales increased by a slightly weaker eight per cent.
After a decline in the 1990s, last year saw the number of people employed in the industries increase by 1.8 per cent to 329,766, with the tight labour market leading to recruitment bottlenecks.
In the fourth quarter of 2000, capacity utilisation in the sector was running at a high 90.5 per cent, the statement said.
Last year, the most dynamic markets were those in Asia, with a 27.1 per cent increase in exports. In 2000, exports to the US market were slightly higher than average, rising 14.5 per cent.
Swissmem said it anticipated a slightly more moderate pace of growth for 2001 as a whole.
It added that the biggest imponderable was the future trend of the US economy. However, it warned that a simultaneous rise in the value of the Swiss franc against the major export currencies would also have a negative impact on the business trend of its members.
swissinfo with agencies