ZURICH, Sept 21, 2010 (AFP) - Switzerland's trade surplus shrank in August with a boom in imports especially from Asia, while exports were propped up by strong watch sales, official data showed Tuesday.
"In both directions, trade with Europe could not bear comparison with Asia and Latin America," the Swiss federal customs office said in a statement.
Its data showed that Switzerland's trade surplus fell back from record levels in July, declining by 68.8 percent compared to August 2009 to 568 million Swiss francs (431 million euros, 564 million dollars).
Trade with other emerging markets and eastern Europe was also buoyant, with Russian purchases growing 60 percent, mainly from the Swiss chemicals industry.
Imports in August jumped 23.6 percent from a year earlier to 13.9 billion francs after declining since May.
Part of the import boom was down to gold ornaments brought in from Vietnam for reprocessing at Swiss plants, although other industrial sectors also grew sharply, the customs office said.
Exports grew 10.9 percent to 14.4 billion francs, thanks in part to the watchmaking industry and metallurgy.
Swiss watch exports increased 24.1 percent in August compared to the same month last year, reaching 1.07 billion Swiss francs.
The bulk of the rise was down to the price of gold watches, the Swiss watchmaking federation said in a statement.
"Gold watches set the tone in August with a gain of almost 40 percent in value," it added.
The Swiss currency has strengthened sharply on foreign exchange markets in recent months against the dollar and euro as investors turned to the franc as a refuge currency in the face of an uncertain economic outlook.