Swiss Holds Interest Rate Steady at -0.75%

The Swiss National Bank kept its benchmark three-month Libor unchanged at -0.75 percent on September 20th 2018, in line with market expectations. The central bank said the Swiss franc is highly valued and confirmed it will continue to intervene in foreign exchange markets. Policymakers also lowered inflation forecasts for 2019 to 0.8 percent from 0.9 percent and for 2020 to 1.2 percent from 1.6 percent. Inflation forecast for 2018 was left at 0.9 percent. GDP growth for the current year was revised higher to 2.5-3 percent from 2 percent.

SNB press release:

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) is maintaining its expansionary monetary policy, thereby stabilising price developments and supporting economic activity. Interest on sight deposits at the SNB remains at –0.75% and the target range for the three-month Libor is unchanged at between –1.25% and –0.25%. The SNB will remain active in the foreign exchange market as necessary, while taking the overall currency situation into consideration. 

Since the monetary policy assessment of June 2018, the Swiss franc has appreciated noticeably, against the major currencies as well as against emerging market currencies. The Swiss franc is highly valued, and the situation on the foreign exchange market is still fragile. The negative interest rate and the SNB’s willingness to intervene in the foreign exchange market as necessary remain essential in order to keep the attractiveness of Swiss franc investments low and thus ease pressure on the currency. 

The new conditional inflation forecast suggests that inflation up to the beginning of 2019 will be higher than predicted in June due to a slight rise in domestic inflation. From the second quarter of 2019, the new conditional forecast lies below the June forecast as a result of the appreciation in the Swiss franc. For 2018, the SNB continues to anticipate inflation of 0.9%, while the inflation forecast of 0.8% for 2019 is 0.1 percentage points lower than projected at the last assessment. For 2020, the SNB expects to see inflation of 1.2%, compared with the 1.6% forecast in the last quarter. The conditional inflation forecast is based on the assumption that the three-month Libor remains at –0.75% over the entire forecast horizon. 

Overall, global economic growth was solid in the second quarter. In the advanced economies, utilisation of production capacity continued to improve and employment figures once again rose. In the emerging economies, too, economic momentum remained generally robust. International goods trade nonetheless slowed somewhat.

Economic signals for the coming months remain favourable. Supported by ongoing expansionary monetary policy in the advanced economies and improved labour markets, the global economy is likely to continue to grow. However, following strong growth in the previous quarters, the pace is expected to slow slightly. To date, the crises of confidence in Turkey and Argentina have not materially impacted the global economic outlook. 

The risks to this positive baseline scenario are more to the downside. Chief among them are political uncertainties in some countries as well as potential international tensions and protectionist tendencies. 

Switzerland’s economy has continued to recover. The revised GDP figures for recent years reveal stronger growth momentum than was originally reported. In the second quarter 2018, GDP once again grew faster than estimated potential output, at an annualised rate of 2.9%. The positive development in the first half of the year was, however, partly due to special factors. Overall, utilisation of total production capacity has improved further, and unemployment has also continued to decline over recent months. 

Leading indicators suggest that the economic outlook remains favourable. Some loss of momentum is expected, however, due to a slight slowdown in global growth and the dampening effect of recent Swiss franc appreciation. The SNB now anticipates GDP growth of between 2.5% and 3% for the current year and a further slight fall in unemployment. The stronger growth forecast is attributable to the upward revision for the previous quarters.

Swiss Holds Interest Rate Steady at -0.75%

SNB | Agna Gabriel |
9/20/2018 8:20:36 AM