ZURICH, May 14 (Reuters) - New orders to the Swiss mechanical and electrical engineering (MEM) sector fell 5.1% in the first quarter, industry group Swissmem said on Tuesday, citing a slowdown in key markets.
Sales fell by 1.1% year on year, while exports edged up 0.9%.
"Swissmem anticipates a sideways trend in business by the MEM industries throughout the remainder of 2019. Given the considerable economic risks that exist worldwide, it is important to avoid home-grown uncertainties," it said.
It cited in particular Swiss referendums on Sunday on reforming the corporate tax system and adopting tighter gun controls -- whose passage could avoid potential clashes with the European Union -- and progress on a stalled EU treaty.
Swissmem said members' expectations for the next 12 months were subdued, with 26% of companies anticipating an increase in foreign orders, down from 48% a year ago. Just under half expect no change in orders, and a quarter anticipate a fall in orders. (Reporting by Michael Shields; editing by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi)