Swiss National Bank Purchases Drive Reserves to Record High

The Swiss National Bank’s foreign-currency reserves hit a record in December after an appreciation of the franc forced the institution to end a two-year hiatus in interventions.

Holdings increased to 495.1 billion francs ($490 billion) from a revised 462.7 billion francs in November, the central bank based in Zurich and Bern said on its website today. The holdings are calculated according to International Monetary Fund standards at the beginning of every month.

The SNB said on Dec. 18 that it had resumed purchases of foreign currencies after the franc hit its strongest since 2012 amid a weakening of the Russian economy and the prospect of more euro-area stimulus by the European Central Bank. It imposed a negative deposit rate to stave off capital inflows and lowered its target range for three-month franc Libor to reinforce its three-year-old minimum exchange rate of 1.20 per euro.

Pressure on the SNB’s cap was “very high in the first half of December,” said Evelyn Herrmann, an economist at BNP Paribas SA. “Geopolitical tensions, in particular the situation in Russia, were cited by the central bank as the main reason for increased safe haven flows into the currency.”

Negative rates don’t hinder the SNB in its ability to wage unlimited currency interventions, President Thomas Jordan told Swiss television SRF earlier this week.

The Swiss currency was unchanged at 1.2010 per euro at 9:20 a.m. in Zurich today. Against the dollar it stood at 1.01 francs.

As of the end of the third quarter, the SNB held 45 percent of its reserves in euros and 29 percent in dollars. The bulk was invested in highly rated government bonds, with 16 percent in equities.

via Bloomberg

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Alfonso Esparza

Alfonso Esparza

Senior Currency Analyst at Market Pulse
Alfonso Esparza specializes in macro forex strategies for North American and major currency pairs. Upon joining OANDA in 2007, Alfonso Esparza established the MarketPulseFX blog and he has since written extensively about central banks and global economic and political trends. Alfonso has also worked as a professional currency trader focused on North America and emerging markets. He has been published by The MarketWatch, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal and The Globe and Mail, and he also appears regularly as a guest commentator on networks including Bloomberg and BNN. He holds a finance degree from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM) and an MBA with a specialization on financial engineering and marketing from the University of Toronto.
Alfonso Esparza