Thursday, July 22, 2010

When Safe Haven Status Can Be Negative

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard report on the losing battler of the Swiss National Bank who has invested massively in trying to limit the appreciation of the Franc.

The Swiss National Bank is essentially caught between a rock and a hard place as both the intervention and non-intervention alternatives are loss making. If they continue to intervene then investment losses will continue to grow as the inevitable rise of the franc reduces the value of its foreign currency holdings. The losses so far are estimated at over 14 billion francs or more than €10 billion.

If on the other hand they cease intervening then the short term investment losses will grow even bigger as a faster franc appreciation will cause even bigger losses. And furthermore, further dramatic franc appreciation will seriously damage Swiss exporters.

This illustrates that for a country perceived as a safe haven by the markets. it is in fact better to be in a currency union. Germany like Switzerland gets to enjoy low interest rates on its government bonds, but unlike the Swiss they don't have to lose money on currency market interventions nor do their exporters risk the kind of exchange rate shock that Swiss exporters suffer from. For this reason, and many others, the scenario of a German exit from the euro can be ruled out.