Dec 22, 2009
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Export data suggests that the worst is over for Swiss watches

Dec 22, 2009

ZURICH, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Demand for Swiss watches rose in November from the previous month and data pointed to an end to the sharpest drop in appetite from buyers abroad in some 20 years.

Man's Watch "Tradition" by Breguet, one of the brands of Swatch Group

Exports dipped 10.6 percent year-on-year in November to 1.4 billion Swiss francs ($1.4 billion) after they fell 23 percent in October, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said on Tuesday 22 December.

"This rate is a marked improvement on previous months. The trough of the wave appears therefore to have been reached, and may even be receding," the federation said in a statement.

The industry has been grappling with weak consumer sentiment this year, while tough credit markets have also made it difficult for retailers to replenish stocks, resulting in a 23.7 percent slump in exports so far this year.

But November's data suggests the worst could be over for the ailing sector, which accounts for around 7 percent of Swiss exports, and is home to Swatch Group (UHR.VX), the world's largest watchmaker, and Richemont (CFR.VX), the luxury goods group behind brands like Cartier, IWC and Vacheron Constantin.

"The improvement can be seen in the U.S., but especially Asia ex-Japan supported the lower decline thanks to positive growth in China and Singapore," said Vontobel analyst Rene Weber.

"For December we expect a similar development as in November also partly explained by the comparison base."

Exports to China rose 36 percent, while exports to Hong Kong, the industry's biggest market, fell 14 percent and demand in the United States fell 21 percent -- an improvement from the previous month's levels.

At 0811 GMT, shares in Swatch Group were trading 0.5 percent stronger at 258.40 Swiss francs, while Richemont shares were 1 percent firmer at 34.42 francs and the DJ Stoxx European personal and household goods index .SXQP was up 0.5 percent.

(Reporting by Katie Reid; editing by John Stonestreet) ($1=1.041 Swiss Franc)

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