The Swiss National Bank’s (SNB) reported 52 billion euro ($57 billion) loss last week has once again raised questions about the future of the Swiss economy and the continued impacts that a strong currency has had on it.
Given that the SNB abandoned its 1.20 euro peg in January, the 52 billion euro loss was expected, but the franc is still strong, and the loss could, among others, thwart the SNB’s disbursements to Switzerland’s federal and regional governments, which rely on these payments to help balance their budgets. What’s next, then, for Switzerland and the Swiss franc?
Jennifer McKeown, European economist, Capital Economics:
“We expect very sharp falls in Swiss exports in the coming months, given that the exchange rate is still so high and we believe that the Swiss franc is likely to come under renewed pressure for the rest of the year, perhaps in part due to the Greek situation, since a Greek exit from the Eurozone would mean more investors would be looking for safe havens. There is also every chance that the European Central Bank (ECB) will extend its QE program, and more policy support from the ECB will also put upward pressure on the franc. I think it’s likely that the SNB will cut interest rates once more and I don’t think it will be afraid to intervene in the foreign exchange market.”
Vito Sciaraffia, vice president, investment Strategy, Innealta Capital:
“A 50 billion euro loss for any U.S. bank would not be so significant but for an economy like Switzerland, the loss is huge, and one of its main implications will be less money going out from the federal government to the Swiss cantons, or states, and this in turn will decrease consumption. We therefore expect the Swiss economy to shrink in the next few months because of lower distributions. We also expect that the SNB will have to keep battling inflation – likely to be a major concern in coming months — and will face an environment where there’s a trade off between keeping the Swiss economy competitive in Europe or having to encourage consumption in the domestic economy.”
Matthew Cobon, head of interest rates and currency, Columbia Threadneedle Investments:
“The strength of the franc doesn’t seem to have had a huge negative effect on the Swiss economy and the domestic economy still seems reasonably robust. In the current, low volatility environment, we have started to see some modest outflows from the franc and we don’t expect it to appreciate too much more from here. We are short the Swiss franc and we are getting paid for that, because we don’t see a huge, obvious demand for Swiss francs on the horizon, and we don’t believe that flight to quality is at the forefront at the moment.”
Brian Jacobsen, chief investment strategist, Wells Fargo:
“The Swiss franc is still viewed as a safe haven and it is still experiencing the safe haven bid from international investors given the recent market volatility. That said, I think the Swiss franc will moderate from here on and I don’t see a lot of upside as far as strengthening pressure. But even if the appreciation will be more moderate, and in the longer-term the Swiss economy will bounce back from the currency effect, I don’t see any more buying opportunities in the stock market. When the euro peg was removed in January, U.S. investors were able to take advantage of the huge drop in Swiss stock prices. But since January, the market has bounced back and is up about 10%, so though it’s been a good ride for U.S. investors, I don’t think there’s a lot of value left to squeeze out of Swiss stocks.”