Switzerland's foreign trade has recorded its worst performance in decades, with exports and imports falling by more than ten per cent in the first quarter of 2009.
Figures released on Thursday by the federal customs administration show that they even suffered declines of more than 20 per cent in March.
Exports in the first quarter fell to SFr44.2 billion ($37.9 billion), a decline of 11.9 per cent (-13.3 per cent in real terms). The metal industry was the worst affected, recording a 34.3 per cent drop, although six out of ten export sectors showed declines of more than 20 per cent.
Imports were down 10.6 per cent to SFr41.24 billion, leaving Switzerland with a trade surplus of SFr2.9 billion, about a quarter less than the comparable period in 2008.
In a related development, the watch industry said exports fell for a fifth month in a row in March to SFr919.4 million, a decline of 26.6 per cent compared with the same month in 2008.
The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry in Biel said the decline was focused on the highest price segments, particularly watches costing between SFr500 and SFr3,000.
Exports to the key markets of Hong Kong and the United States fell by 29.2 per cent and 49.8 per cent respectively as spending on luxury items shrank. First-quarter exports are down by 23.5 per cent to SFr2.89 billion.
swissinfo with agencies
In compliance with the JTI standards