Industry survey points to better times ahead

Industry is likely to pick up next year. ABB Switzerland

Swiss industry seems to be emerging from the doldrums after a dismal performance in the first half of the year.

This content was published on October 10, 2003 - 13:23

A quarterly survey of 300 companies by Switzerland’s largest bank, UBS, indicates that they have been given a tentative boost by the global economic upturn.

“The outlook for companies is brightening up, especially for those that are exposed to the international markets,” Andreas Höfert, head of economic research at UBS, told swissinfo.

“This fits in with our international forecast. Things are really picking up in the United States, for example, and also in Europe in terms of growth,” he added.

Marked improvement

Although sales and earnings were down sharply again in the third quarter, the figures for most Swiss industrial sectors showed a marked improvement quarter-on-quarter, the survey published on Friday revealed.

It added that sentiment seems to have perked up throughout the economy. However, the domestic economy is likely to remain weak for the time being.

“In fact, we will have negative growth for this year. The second and third quarters [have] negative growth rates, but the fourth quarter will have a growth rate that is near to zero,” Höfert commented.

“If one extrapolates from this trend a little bit, we get a very positive growth for next year,” he added.

Seven of the ten sectors surveyed during September expect orders to rise in the final quarter of the year, with the main impetus coming from abroad.

Foreign stimulus

Höfert told swissinfo that the stimulus from foreign demand should not be underestimated.

“It’s really important. Right now we also have a Swiss franc that is rather low against all other currencies, and if it continues for one or two quarters, the international upward trend will also be reflected in the Swiss industrial data,” he said.

The survey indicates that since stocks of finished goods have been steadily reduced over the last six quarters, companies are likely to step-up production slightly for the first time.

But with pressure on prices continuing in both the export and domestic markets, earnings are set to remain fragile.

Companies look set to continue to cut their workforce. One in three companies expect to reduce their headcount between October and December, while only six per cent are planning to take on more labour.

swissinfo, Robert Brookes

In brief

A survey from UBS says that the outlook for Swiss industry is improving.

Seven out of the ten industrial sectors polled expect orders received to rise in the final quarter of 2003.

It says that although a stimulus from foreign demand is expected, domestic demand looks as though it will be slightly negative.

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