Swiss Economy Slumps the Most in Decades

The hotel and restaurant sector experienced a 23.4% drop in output Keystone / Urs Flueeler

(Bloomberg) -- Switzerland’s economy slumped the most in at least four decades as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with private consumption and investment plummeting.

First-quarter gross domestic product plunged 2.6%, data from the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs showed. That’s worse than the 2.1% hit forecast by economists in a Bloomberg survey and the biggest three-month contraction since the start of the time series in 1980.

Like neighboring France, Italy and Germany, Switzerland responded to the pandemic by winding down much of public life. The hotel and restaurant sector experienced a 23.4% drop in output, according to the data on Wednesday.

Although the Swiss economy fared slightly worse than Germany’s in the first quarter, the contractions in France and Italy were far more severe.

Swiss government subsidies have kept a lid on unemployment and helped companies avoid a cash crunch, but the SECO still expects the economy to shrink 6.7% this year before staging a slow recovery in 2021.

Machine industry group Swissmem said that 80% of its member companies were forced to apply for short-time work, and that the full impact of the pandemic wouldn’t be felt by the sector until the second or third quarter of this year.

To prevent the rallying haven franc from hurting the economy still further, the Swiss National Bank has stepped up the pace of its currency interventions. Its deposit rate is already at a record low of -0.75%.

(Updates detail on hospitality sector in 3rd paragraph)

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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