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Swiss growth just tops forecast in third quarter

A general view shows the headquarters of Swiss bank Credit Suisse (R) at the Paradeplatz square in Zurich July 25, 2013. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland's economy grew a touch more than expected in the third quarter on the back of government spending, construction and a pick-up in exports, suggesting growth may accelerate into the start of next year.

Private consumption, buoyed by low unemployment, has helped support Swiss growth even as the debt crisis in the euro zone - Switzerland's biggest trading partner - sapped demand for exports.

But recent data pointing to a brighter outlook for the single currency bloc is expected to further power the Swiss economy over the next six months.

"Swiss GDP results show an economy continuing its steady performance and one which will hopefully pick up even more into 2014 if the euro zone's tentative recovery can continue," said Informa Global Markets analyst Tony Nyman.

Gross domestic product rose by 0.5 percent, at the same pace as in the April to June quarter, and by 1.9 percent year-on-year, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said on Thursday.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast quarterly growth of 0.4 percent on average, while the year-on-year figure also beat forecasts of 1.7 percent. (ECONCH)

The figures add to a string of upbeat economic data from Switzerland, one of Europe's richest economies.

A leading indicator suggests the economy should gain further steam over the next six months, while monthly data for the start of the fourth quarter showed exports from Switzerland rose by a real 0.9 percent in October.

Both the Swiss National Bank (SNB) and the government have raised their forecast for overall annual growth this year.

The health of the economy underscores the success of the SNB's policy of capping the franc at 1.20 per euro two years ago as the strong currency provoked falls in prices and squeezed exporters and the tourism industry.

The bank's chairman Thomas Jordan said on Monday he saw no reason to do away with the franc cap for now.

The SNB, which holds its next policy meeting in two weeks, forecast in September that the economy would grow 1.5 to 2.0 percent this year.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley. Additional reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; editing by Patrick Graham)