Switzerland’s trade surplus hit its highest ever level last month, with falls in vehicle imports and continuing stress in watch exports offset by a gain in pharmaceutical exports.

The country saw its trade surplus balloon to SFr4.73bn compared to SFr2.69bn the previous month, which the Federal Customs Office said was a new monthly peak.

Exports and imports both declined on a seasonally adjusted basis by 4 per cent and 5.3 per cent respectively compared to the previous month.

But exports rose 2.3 per cent in real terms from the same time last year, driven by a new monthly record for exports of chemical and pharmaceutical products, while imports fell 6.8 per cent on the same measure, continuing the negative trend for Swiss imports since the summer of 2016.

Watch exports were down 12.7 per cent compared to January 2016 in real terms, adjusted for working days, while chemical and pharmaceutical exports rose 7.2 per cent on the same measure and 17 per cent in nominal terms.

Vehicle imports led the overall fall in imported goods, declining 27.7 per cent in January from the same time last year.

Switzerland has struggled to climb out of deflation as the strong franc has driven down the cost of imports. But the country saw its first year on year increase in consumer prices in two years in January, figures earlier this month showed.

Last year was the worst for Swiss watch exports since 2011, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, amid falling sales in Hong Kong.

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