The Swiss National Bank (SNB) may have to do more than pump billions into foreign exchange markets into prevent the franc from appreciating to a damaging level.
With data suggesting the central bank recently intervened after the currency rose to the highest since 2017 against the euro, an increasing number of economists expect the SNB to reduce its benchmark interest rate. Five respondents of 17 in Bloomberg’s monthly survey now see a cut of up to 25 basis points this quarter, compared with just one in July.
With the franc up more than 4% versus euro in past three months and European Central Bank expected to unleash new stimulus, SNB is under close scrutiny for possible action it will take to contain the currency’s strength. Sight deposits jumped almost 2.8 billion francs last week, the most in more than two years and a sign the central bank has been intervening in currency markets.
UBS Group AG, Raiffeisen Bank International AG and Bank J. Safra Sarasin are among the institutions now predicting the SNB will follow with a cut, even though the benchmark is already the world’s lowest at -0.75%. While the next policy meeting isn’t until September 19, the central bank could act at any time depending on the franc.
It has a habit of springing surprise announcements, and hasn’t actually moved interest rates at a scheduled meeting since 2009.
The franc was at 1.0867 per euro as of 9:05 Zurich time, little changed on the day. Bullish bets on the franc on options markets remain near a nine-month high amid nervousness on markets about protests in Hong Kong and global trade tensions.
SNB President Thomas Jordan has said there’s still room to maneuver both on interventions and interest rates should the economy deteriorate. He’s previously shown a willingness to take dramatic action when needed, and traders will need little to remind them of his market-shaking decision in 2015 to remove a franc cap.
Despite the increase in participants expecting an SNB cut, the median forecast in the survey is for the key rate to remain unchanged.