Credit Suisse pushes Swiss GDP forecast down sharply

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND – Credit Suisse Thursday pushed its GDP growth forecast down sharply, from 2 percent to 0.5 percent, for 2012. The bank points to the euro crisis, which “continues to weigh on markets, with economic momentum in Europe fading unexpectedly quickly.” Switzerland will be hurt by the fall in exports due to “decidedly gloomier” prospects for countries to which the Swiss export, and the accompanying fall in capital investment on new machinery and equipment.

Consumers and the construction industry, which continues to boom thanks to low interest rates, will prop up economic growth, the bank’s analysts say.

Renovations, new construction: building industry and consumption will prop up Swiss economy in 2012

But “a significant cooling of European growth is  no longer avoidable”, according to Credit Suisse, and “while the US economy has accelerated again slightly following the dip seen in mid-2011, the opposite is occurring in Europe. Most significantly, economic momentum in Germany – Switzerland’s key trading partner – has slowed. At the same time, the partial spillover of the debt crisis to Italy has brought increased volatility on the financial markets, growing tensions on the credit and interbank markets, and falling confidence among households and businesses.”

Sentiment is more of an issue than home-grown problems, the bank notes, pointing out that Swiss public finances and companies do not have excess debt.

“On the contrary, interest rates in Switzerland will remain low until at least the end of 2012. In addition, inflation is not an issue in Switzerland at present; pressure on consumer prices is holding up, so purchasing power is safeguarded (inflation in 2012: 0.4%). Finally, immigration is likely to remain strong, meaning an important driver of the growth in consumption will remain in place. By contrast, the constant talk of crisis, together with a deterioration in the labor market situation (unemployment rate in 2012: 3.3%), is increasingly impacting sentiment, and poses certain constraints for the growth in consumption.”