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SME Export Indicator for Q2 2013: Good Export Prospects Despite Renewed Flareup of Euro Crisis

Export sentiment among Swiss SMEs is more optimistic at the start of second-quarter 2013 than at the beginning of the year. Although the renewed flareup of the euro crisis in recent days has increased uncertainty in the short term, most Swiss export industries are well positioned to benefit from growing demand from abroad. In particular, the Emerging Markets and US will provide a growth fillip. These are the findings of the SME export indicator produced by Osec and Credit Suisse.

The Credit Suisse export barometer, which records foreign demand for Swiss products, stands at a level of 0.45 at the start of the second quarter of 2013 – higher than the 0.28 figure for the start of the year. The growth threshold of the export barometer is 0. However, its development during the first quarter of 2013 shows that the renewed flareup of the euro crisis has put a slight dampener on export prospects since March.

The Osec SME export prospects survey also shows a brightening of export sentiment: It currently stands at 60.4 points, compared with 56.3 points in the preceding quarter. This is the highest figure in four quarters. This figure is calculated from the export sentiment of SMEs for the second quarter of 2013, as well as effective exports in the preceding quarter. On this scale from 0 to 100, values of over 50 indicate a rise in exports. 34.5% of the firms surveyed expect exports to grow over the coming quarter, 56.5% anticipate stagnation, while only 8.6% fear declining exports.

US and Emerging Markets Driving Development of Exports
The Credit Suisse export barometer forecasts a distinctly mixed development across the various export markets. Prospects for exports to the US have improved again – both compared with the preceding quarter and during the quarter itself – and are currently at their highest level in two years. The major emerging-market nations of China, India, Brazil, and Russia show a more mixed picture – though one that is positive in overall terms. Here too, a further rise in sales figures can be expected. Japan is at last expected to provide a boost to export growth once again. The outlook for exports to the euro zone remains bleak. Following a slowing of the downward trend at the start of the year, the renewed flareup of the euro crisis has caused export prospects to deteriorate further. In particular, sales prospects for France, Spain, and Italy have fallen sharply.

Despite the euro crisis and poor growth prospects, Europe nevertheless remains by far the most important destination for Swiss exports. 91% of the Swiss SMEs surveyed by Osec intend to export to Europe over the coming six months. That is exactly the same number as in the preceding quarter (multiple answers possible). The most important European export market is still Germany: 73% of the SMEs surveyed export their goods or services to this country, followed by France with 51%, Austria with 50%, and Italy with 45%.

57% of Swiss SMEs will export to the Asia-Pacific region in the next six months, versus 54% in the preceding period. Foremost among the Asian export destinations is China (35% of mentions), followed by India (27%) and Japan (25%). 45% of SMEs are likely to export to North America in the coming six months, 31% to the Middle East/Africa region, and 23% to South America.

Electrical Engineering Brimming with Optimism
According to the Osec SME export prospects survey, nearly all sectors are optimistic at the start of the second quarter of 2013. Businesses in the electrical engineering sector are especially positive. The paper products, precision instruments, metal, services, consumer goods, and chemicals/pharmaceuticals industries likewise expect solid growth in exports. It is only companies in the machinery sector that expect a fall in exports for the second quarter of 2013.

The companies that are predicting growth in exports over the coming months ascribe this mainly to product innovation (cited by 50%; multiple answers possible) and increased marketing efforts (47%). The "recovery in the economic environment" factor (cited by 32%) has become considerably more significant.

Worries about Strong Swiss Franc Still at Low Level
At the start of the second quarter of 2013, 62% of the companies in the Osec SME export prospects survey expect the growth in their exports to slow as a result of the strong Swiss franc. The strong Swiss franc is therefore of less concern than previously. Only 60% of companies said they were affected in the preceding quarter, compared with 70% six months ago. The service sector, in which only 41% of firms surveyed expect a negative influence, and the paper products industry, with 42%, are looking resilient. The metal industry is especially sensitive about exchange-rate developments, with 89% of SMEs expecting a negative influence. 72% of the SMEs surveyed stated that the strong franc was adversely affecting their profit margins; this compares with 74% in the preceding quarter.

Methodology of the Credit Suisse Export Barometer
The Credit Suisse export barometer takes as its basis the dependence of Swiss exports on foreign export markets. In constructing the export barometer, we have drawn together important leading industry indicators in Switzerland's 28 most important export countries. These indicators generally have a forecast horizon of approximately one to two quarters. The values of these leading indicators are weighted on the basis of the share of exports that goes to each country. The export barometer consolidates this information to produce a single indicator. Since the values in question are standardized, the export barometer is calibrated in standard deviations. The zero line corresponds to the growth threshold. The long-term average growth of Swiss exports of approximately 5% is at 1.
For more detailed information: Credit Suisse (2009), External Trade Switzerland – Facts and Trends, Swiss Issues: Industries, available at www.credit-suisse.com/research.

Methodology of Osec SME Export Outlook Indicator
The SME export outlook indicator is based on the quarterly survey of a fixed panel of more than 200 Swiss SMEs representing the pharmaceuticals/chemicals industry, machinery, consumer goods, the metals industry, paper, electrical engineering, the precision instruments industry, as well as services. SMEs indicate whether they expect growth, stagnation or a decline in exports for the current quarter as well as the coming one. To emphasize the forecast nature of the SME export indicator, expected export activity in the following quarter is weighted at 60%, with exports in the current quarter being weighted at 40%. The SME export indicator can range from 0 to 100, whereby figures between 0 and 50 show an expected decline in exports and figures of 50 to 100 an expected rise in exports. Participants provide further information on export volumes, for instance the reasons for a change in their export volume, export markets, etc. This information gives an accurate picture of the export activities of Swiss SMEs.