The outlook for Switzerland’s industrial sector continued to brighten in March, data showed on Thursday, with the Purchasing Managers Index hitting its highest level in nearly 15 years.
The PMI indicator, produced by procure.ch and Credit Suisse, increased to 66.3 points, its highest level since November 2006 as the country bounced back from the COVID-19 doldrums of 2020.
A reading above 50 points to growth in the sector. It is the second positive piece of data this week after Swiss investor sentiment reached an all-time high on Wednesday.
The PMI figure is a turnaround from the 43.5 reading for March 2020 when Switzerland was hit by the first wave of the coronavirus, making many companies reduce working hours as orders dried up.
Credit Suisse economist Claude Maurer said the new figures pointed to a broad-based and sustainable recovery in the Swiss industrial sector.
An easier comparison with a year earlier helped, while improving exports to Asia were behind the improvement from the 61.3 point reading for February.
The $1.9 trillion fiscal stimulus package announced in the United States also made Swiss industrial companies more optimistic about orders and growth the future, he added.
Pandemic restrictions had also shifted spending by consumers from services to goods.
“During lockdowns people haven’t been able to go out to restaurants, for example, so they’ve been buying TVs instead,” Maurer said.
“This is a very broad-based recovery, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a higher reading for April as we are comparing with the depths of the crisis last year.”
There are signs of shortages, which means companies are hiring again – which would support further growth, he added.
The service sector is also recovering, with the March reading of 55.5 point up from 52.0 points in February. Restaurants and bars in Switzerland remain closed at present under anti-COVID measures.
“For a broader-based recovery, we would need a relaxation of the current restrictions,” said Maurer.