The recovery in the Swiss MEM industries that began in the middle of last year continued in the last quarter. Incoming orders in the fourth quarter of 2013 rose by 3.7% compared with the same period of the previous year. Across the entire year, they increased by 2.3%. The upturn in new orders was matched by a rise in capacity utilization, which, having fallen as low as 82.1% for a while in 2013, recovered to 83.8% in the fourth quarter (prior-year quarter: 83.6%). The latest KOF survey in January 2014 showed capacity utilization to be as high as 87%, which is just above the long-term average. Sales also showed a positive trend, rising by 5.3% in the fourth quarter of 2013 and by 2.8% over the full twelve months. Large companies (with over 250 employees) were the main contributors to this growth. Sales at SMEs stagnated in the final quarter of 2013.
Positive export trend
Exports by the MEM industries amounted to CHF 65.4 billion francs in 2013, which corresponds to a year-on-year increase of 1.2%. With the exception of mechanical engineering (-0.2%), the 2013 export figures recorded by the Swiss Directorate General of Customs were higher than those for the previous year in all product areas. Exports of precision instruments posted the strongest growth (+3.7%). Growth was less pronounced in the metals (+0.7%) and electrical engineering and electronics sectors (+0.1%).
Trends in the export markets varied from region to region in 2013. With a rise of 2.4%, exports to the USA posted the most marked growth. Exports to the EU, which is still the most important market for Swiss MEM industries with 59.4% of export sales, also posted a slight increase (+0.8%). On the other hand, the export of goods to Asia stagnated in 2013 (down 0.2%). If the fourth quarter is considered in isolation, exports to all three main regions grew significantly (EU: +3.5%, USA +2.9%, Asia +3.2%).
Consequences of the yes-vote in the referendum on mass immigration
The recovery in Switzerland's MEM industries was helped by the improvement in the global economy. According to the quarterly survey of Swissmem reporting companies, there is a strong likelihood of this gratifying trend continuing. 54.1% of companies surveyed currently anticipate a rise in new orders from abroad over the next 12 months. Only 11.5% fear a deterioration in the orders situation. The survey was, however, conducted prior to 9 February 2014. The coming months and years will reveal the extent to which the yes-vote in the referendum on mass immigration will have a negative impact on expectations and possibly also business in the MEM industries. But in view of the resulting uncertainty about Switzerland's future relationship with the EU, there is likely to be a worsening of the investment climate. In addition, the suspension of Swiss participation in the "Horizon 2020" research agreement directly reduces the attractiveness of Switzerland as a location for research and industry.
Swissmem will therefore work to ensure that the system set up for allocating quotas on foreign workers is as unbureaucratic as possible. Even more crucial is the need to rescue the Bilateral Agreements with the EU. Swissmem will accordingly support the efforts of the Swiss Federal Council to this end. Last but not least, Swissmem will step up its efforts to make more effective use of the potential pool of specialist workers within Switzerland. It will focus particularly on young people, women and older employees. In addition, Swissmem will call on those responsible at the political and administration levels to take rapid action to ensure a more restrictive approach to political asylum and eliminate bottlenecks in housing and infrastructure.
For further information, please contact:
Ivo Zimmermann, Head of Communications
Phone: +41 (0)44 384 48 50 / mobile: +41 (0)79 580 04 84
Philippe Cordonier, Communications Manager, French-speaking Switzerland Phone: +41 (0)21 613 35 85 Mobile: +41 (0)79 644 46 77