The Swiss economy is set to start a slow recovery, according to an influential survey published in Zurich on Wednesday.
Economic researchers at the Swiss Business Cycle Research Institute (KOF) said in their quarterly study that the economy was approaching its lowest point and recovery would start in the second and third quarters.
In its survey of more than 4,000 firms, KOF said it had found that corporate expectations and plans had improved.
It commented that in the export industry in particular, positive expectations dominated the negatives, adding that the banking sector and the retail sector were also cautiously optimistic.
However, it noted that future developments in the hotel and restaurant sector were viewed as "pessimistic" and that expectations in the construction branch had worsened.
Confirmation of last forecast
KOF, which is part of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, said the survey confirmed its forecast last month of a turnaround in the second quarter.
"This survey reconfirms what economists expected late last year, namely that the trough of the slump will have been in the fourth quarter of last year or the first of this, with a recovery picking up steam in the second half," commented Fabio Alessandrini, chief economist of private bankers Lombard Odier & Cie in Geneva.
KOF last month revised downward its forecast of growth for the Swiss economy this year from 1.7 per cent to 1.2 per cent. The outlook for next year, however, looks brighter.
It forecast that growth in 2003 would be 2.1 per cent, slightly higher than the previous figure of 2 per cent it reported last October.
The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs in Bern has forecast that the economy would grow this year by one per cent, the figure that has also been put forward by the Swiss National Bank.
KOF's slightly higher growth prediction is due to the feeling that the economy will turn the tide in the second quarter and not in the second half, as others have been forecasting.
swissinfo with agencies