ZURICH, Nov 15 (Reuters) - New orders for the Swiss mechanical, electrical and metal engineering sector fell 14.7% in the third quarter versus the year-earlier period, bringing the decline for the first nine months to 13.2%, sector group Swissmem said on Friday.
It was the fifth consecutive quarterly drop, marked primarily by flagging orders from abroad. Exports are the lifeblood of the Swiss economy, particularly for machinery makers like VAT and Bucher.
"An opportunity to stabilise the situation exists only if the economy in main markets does not cool any further and there is no global political and economic upheaval. In addition, there cannot be a rapid appreciation of the Swiss franc against the euro," Swissmem said.
"For this reason, pressure initiated by banks on the negative interest rates is counterproductive," it said, referring to criticism of the Swiss National Bank's policy of keeping rates negative to curb franc strength.
Employment in the sector rose in the first half of the year, but capacity utilisation is falling and the number of companies introducing reduced working hours is clearly rising, it said. (Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by John Miller)