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Switzerland posts record trade surplus despite export fall

[GENEVA] Switzerland posted a record trade surplus in 2015 of 36.6 billion Swiss francs (US$36.1 billion), despite declines in exports, as imports were made cheaper by the strong franc, the government said Tuesday.

It has been just over a year since the Swiss National Bank made the shock decision to scrap efforts to stop the franc from rising against the euro, a move which continues to have consequences domestically and abroad.

Compared to 2014 figures, exports fell 2.6 per cent to 202.9 billion Swiss francs, the finance ministry said, noting that nine out of 10 sectors monitored finished 2015 in the red.

The crucial machines and electronics sector saw a seven-per cent export decline, while chemical and pharmaceuticals ticked down slightly, with a one-per cent fall.

Swiss watch exports saw their first fall in six years, largely driven by plunging demand in Hong Kong.

With the strong franc making Swiss goods more expensive for consumers worldwide, jewellery was the ony sector that recorded an increase (six per cent) in 2015.

Imports dropped 6.9 per cent compared to 2014 in value terms to 166.3 billion francs as the rising franc led to a decline in price for foreign-made goods.

The Swiss franc has appreciated about nine per cent against the euro over the last 12 months.