Swiss Franc Gains as Inflation Quickens

The Swiss franc rose to a six-week high against the euro as a government report showed inflation accelerated more than forecast to the fastest pace in almost 15 years in May.

The franc also advanced for a third day versus the dollar as traders increased bets the Swiss National Bank will lift interest rates this year to contain consumer-price growth. Stocks fell in Asia and some European markets, prompting traders to roll back so- called carry trades in which they buy high-yielding assets funded with loans from Switzerland.

The franc rose as much as 0.4 percent to 1.6055 per euro, the highest level since April 23, and was at 1.6081 by 12:35 p.m. in Zurich, from 1.6119 late yesterday. It climbed to 1.0313 per dollar, from 1.0375.

Europe's Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index of equities, which has dropped 13 percent this year, was little changed after Asian stocks fell for the first time in four days.

Swiss consumer prices rose 2.9 percent from a year earlier after increasing 2.3 percent in April, the Federal Statistics Office in Neuchatel said. That's the highest rate since October 1993. Economists forecast inflation of 2.4 percent, according to the median of 19 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey.

Excluding prices of food, beverages, seasonal goods, energy and fuel, consumer prices rose 0.3 percent in the month and 1.4 percent from a year earlier, the statistics office said.

Investors have raised bets the SNB will increase borrowing costs this year, futures trading shows. The implied rate on the three-month Liffe contract expiring December traded at 3.05 percent today, up from 2.87 percent on May 1.

Switzerland's main rate is the third-lowest in the industrialized world and compares with 0.5 percent in Japan, 2 percent in the U.S. and 11.5 percent in South Africa.

Carry-trade investors borrow in a country with low interest rates and convert the proceeds into a currency they can lend out for a higher return. They earn the spread between the borrowing and lending rates, taking the risk currency moves will erase profit.

Swiss Franc Gains as Inflation Quickens, Bloomberg
6/4/2008 6:40:21 AM