PARIS — Exports of Swiss watches climbed 12.9 percent in February, fueled by fast growth in Hong Kong, the U.S. and China, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said on Tuesday.The figures provide relief to an industry slowly emerging from a downturn, and come as watchmakers prepare to meet at the annual Baselworld fair later this week.“We expect a continuing strong Swiss watch export growth should allay fears that January was a one-off, related to Chinese New Year calendar differences,” Luca Solca, analyst with Exane BNP Paribas, said in a note to clients.“This should by consequence lead to hard luxury relative share price performance,” Solca added. Swiss watch exports are considered a bellwether for the luxury goods industry.Sales of Swiss watch exports reached 1.7 billion Swiss francs, or $1.79 billion at average exchange rates, led by Hong Kong, the industry’s largest market, which posted a 35.7 percent jump. Exports to the U.S. and China were up 26.3 percent and 21.7 percent, respectively, with the U.S. resuming its second-place position in terms of market share after slipping behind China last month.A mixed picture emerged from Europe, however, with Germany clocking 6 percent growth while the U.K. and Italy posted declines of 16.8 percent and 13 percent, respectively.All categories of timepieces grew in terms of value, with the fastest growth coming from watches valued in the range of 500 Swiss francs to 3,000 Swiss francs, up 19.3 percent. Exports for the least expensive watches, valued at below 200 Swiss francs, grew 7.8 percent, after more than a year of sharp declines.Sales of watches made of precious metals and steel grew strongly, up 14 percent and 12.8 percent, respectively.
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