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Foreign trade picked up in May 2017

Foreign trade turned out to be dynamic in May 2017. Thus, on a working-day adjusted basis, exports grew by 7.5% and imports by 8.7%. In both directions, chemical and pharmaceutical products generated considerable momentum. The balance of trade showed a large surplus of CHF 3.4 billion.

Swiss exports increased in May 2017

Overall performance

Year on year, exports rose by 7.5% on a working-day adjusted basis (real: + 4.5%). Compared to the previous month (seasonally adjusted), they rose by 4.6%. The trend is now pointing upwards, following the slightly negative trend since the beginning of the year. Imports rose by 8.7% in the course of the year (real: +4.5%).  Compared to April 2017, they rose by 2.8% on a seasonally adjusted basis. This strengthened the uptrend recorded since December 2016.

Exports to China exceed CHF 1.1 billion

All main groups reported a working-day-adjusted increase in sales between +1% and +25%. More than half of the total increase in exports of CHF 1.3 billion was attributable to chemical and pharmaceutical products (+ 9%).
Exports of textiles, clothing and footwear posted the greatest growth due to high returns. Vehicle exports – especially rolling stock – and metal exports also grew in the double-digit range. For the first time in a while, watch exports posted a clear increase again (+ 9% respectively + CHF 140 million). In the chemicals segment, pharmaceuticals orders increased by more than half (+ CHF 497 million), while orders for immunological products rose by 7%. The second-largest export segment, machinery and electronics, posted a plus of 1%, which mainly came from the non-electrical machinery segment (+59%).
The bulk of exports were concentrated in the two largest markets, Asia (+16%) and Europe (+8%, EU: +9%). In the former, Singapore, China and Japan topped this list, accounting for a third to half more Swiss goods (a total of + CHF 590 million). In Europe, orders to Austria rose by a quarter, while deliveries to Germany grew by 16% and those to Italy by 12%. By contrast, exports to North America fell by 5% (US: -5%) and to Latin America by 4%.

Imports: Pharmaceutical products accounted for 70% of the overall increase

May 2017 saw a 9% working-day-adjusted increase. Overall, three quarters of the product groups posted an increase. Imports of chemical and pharmaceutical products, which rose by a quarter, increased particularly impressively. This segment therefore accounted for more than 70% of the total increase in imports.
Drugs (+ CHF 630 million) and pharmaceuticals (+ CHF 406 million), which increased by half respectively three quarters, were responsible for the growth in imports of chemical and pharmaceutical products. Energy carriers, which grew by 18% solely as a result of price hikes, also posted a strong increase. Imports of textiles, clothing and footwear (+ 14%) as well as those of metals (+ 11%), also grew in the double-digit range.
With the exception of North America (-20%), imports from all continents rose. Imports from Europe (+14%) rose at an above-average rate. Increased pharmaceuticals purchases resulted in a sharp increase in imports from Ireland (+70%) and Austria (+45%). In addition, our neighbors Germany (+17%) and France (+16%) also played an important role, with imports rising by CHF 649 million and 164 million respectively. Imports from Asia, Switzerland's second-largest procurement market, rose by 3% overall. The decline in imports from North America resulted from the adverse development of imports in the aviation sector: the strong decline in imports from the USA (- CHF 371 million) stood in stark contrast to imports from Canada which tripled (+ CHF 106 million).

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