Swatch Group seeing strong demand so far in 2017 - CEO

BIEL, Switzerland, March 16 (Reuters) - Swatch Group

has seen strong demand for its watches since the beginning of

the year, the world's biggest watchmaker's chief executive said

on Thursday.

"The first two and a half months of 2017 showed strong

growth, particularly in Asia," Nick Hayek told a news conference

to present the company's full-year results, already released in

February.

Swiss watchmakers are grappling with declining sales in

their biggest markets -- Hong Kong and the United States -- and

tourist shoppers avoiding Europe for fear of extremist attacks,

but recently watch shipments to mainland China turned the

corner.

The company's finance chief said Swatch Group had chosen to

do a share buyback last year to avoid negative interest on its

cash position.

(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Michael Shields)