[ZURICH] Switzerland's manufacturing sector shrank in January at the sharpest pace since the 2008 financial crisis, as companies were caught off guard by the central bank lifting its cap on the franc's value against the euro.
The abandonment of the more than three-year-old cap sent the franc soaring, prompting firms across Switzerland to warn of a plunge in profits, with the luxury, industrial and tourism sectors most exposed to loss of foreign business.
The Swiss purchasing managers' index, which gives a snapshot of the health of the manufacturing sector, fell to a seasonally adjusted 48.2 points in January from 53.6 points in the previous month, data showed on Monday.
That was the sharpest drop in the index since November 2008, pushing it below 50, the threshold that separates growth from contraction, for the first time in about two years.
"Clearly only very few companies expected the SNB to withdraw the minimum exchange rate," the survey's authors, Credit Suisse and procure.ch, said.
The subindex tracking purchasing prices plummeted by 26.7 points to a historic low of 21.2 points, indicating a sharp fall in prices in Switzerland ahead.
The survey showed that 85 per cent of companies polled had taken measures already to cushion the impact of the franc's sharp appreciation.
"Somewhat more than every tenth company (14 per cent) is planning a relocation abroad or has imposed a direct freeze on investments and recruitment," Credit Suisse and procure.ch said.