Switzerland may not see any economic growth in 2009. Zilch, according to the economic forecast delivered at the end of 2008 by economiesuisse, the umbrella organisation representing the Swiss economy.
economiesuisse is expecting a negative growth rate in the first two quarters, and largely attributes it to the continued impact of the global financial crisis on Switzerland's exports and especially its non-consumer products, in keeping with recent trends. Those industries hit hardest during past months have been the auto supplier and textile industries, said the organisation.
"In both cases, it is not the downturn in itself that's worrying, but the rapid development within a short time," said Rudolf Minsch, chief economist at economiesuisse.
The "Achilles' heel" of the coming months will be Switzerland's exports, and in particular, the negative impact of the general economic downturn in Europe, said economiesuisse. Compounding the problem, it warned, is the Swiss franc's recent appreciation against the Euro, which has made it even more expensive for Euro-zone countries to import Swiss products.
As a result of its expectations for economic stagnation, economiesuisse also predicts the annual average unemployment rate will rise to 3.2 per cent from 2008's 2.5 per cent.
On December 3--the same day economiesuisse released its forecast--Swiss National Bank president JeanPierre Roth said "... the situation in the non-financial sector is deteriorating substantially. This could lead to new challenges in 2009."
In his speech, Roth acknowledged that while the SNB's attention had been focused on the problems of the financial industry--where the turmoil has exceeded all forecasts--it appeared the real economy was moving along without too many problems.
"We now realise that this view...