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Swiss industry in dynamic form
Industrial activity in Switzerland picked up sharply in the first three months of 2006, and the latest UBS survey shows the pace of business climbing to its highest level for six years. The upturn is set to continue unabated in the second quarter of the year.
UBS's quarterly survey in March of some 330 companies indicated that the upturn in Swiss industry continued in the first quarter of 2006, enjoying broad support across sectors. Survey participants believe that growth has not yet peaked, and instead expect the upward trend to continue unbroken in the second quarter.
UBS business cycle indicator at its highest level since 2000
These positive results mean the entire Swiss economy is likely to shift up a gear in the first half of 2006. That is the message from the UBS business cycle indicator, which is derived from the results of the quarterly industry survey and has proved a reliable indicator of the near-term economic trend in Switzerland over a two-quarter horizon. A trend barometer for gross domestic product (GDP), it is pointing to annual growth rates comfortably in excess of 3% for the first two quarters of 2006. The last time it recorded such figures was in the boom phase of 2000.
Upturn across a broad front
For the first quarter, 61% of the companies surveyed reported rising order intakes and just 15% a drop in orders (balance: +46%). This was due above all to increased export orders, but domestic business was also significantly higher. The industrial upturn therefore has broad support. For sales and production too, the percentage of those reporting an increase far outweighed those reporting a decline. At 87%, capacity utilization rose above the normal long-term level. The negative trend in employment was also broken for the first time since 2001: 28% of companies surveyed had recruited extra staff, while only 23% had to make cuts.
The companies surveyed by UBS were also decidedly optimistic about the second quarter. Their expectations for domestic and international orders, production and sales were higher, even versus the strong trend of the previous quarter. Capacity utilization is being stepped up, extra staff taken on and inventories reduced in order to best meet demand. The easing pressure on selling prices should also contribute to stronger earnings.
All areas of industry in positive territory
A majority of companies in each of the sectors surveyed by UBS shared the upbeat assessment of the business environment for the second quarter. The most optimistic sector was watchmakers, followed by the timber and furniture industry. More cautious - but still positive on balance - were plastics, food, and paper, printing and graphics.
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UBS Business Cycle Indicator and GDP
(Year-on-year change in %)
Data (in %):
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