Switzerland Holds Policy Rate at -0.75%

The Swiss National Bank held its deposit interest rate at a record low of -0.75 percent on December 15th, as widely expected, saying the franc is still significantly overvalued and the current expansionary monetary policy is aimed at stabilizing price developments and supporting economic activity. Meanwhile, the central bank cut inflation forecasts for 2017 to 0.1 percent from 0.2 percent previously estimated; and for 2018 to 0.5 percent from 0.6 percent.

Excerpts from the SNB press release:

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) is maintaining its expansionary monetary policy. Interest on sight deposits at the SNB is to remain at –0.75% and the target range for the three-month Libor is unchanged at between –1.25% and –0.25%. At the same time, the SNB will remain active in the foreign exchange market as necessary, while taking the overall currency situation into consideration. The SNB’s expansionary monetary policy is aimed at stabilising price developments and supporting economic activity. The negative interest rate and the SNB’s willingness to intervene in the foreign exchange market are intended to make Swiss franc investments less attractive, thereby easing pressure on the currency. The Swiss franc is still significantly overvalued.

Compared to September, the new conditional inflation forecast has been revised slightly downwards in the short term. This mainly reflects the fact that inflation in October and November was slightly lower than expected. The SNB nevertheless anticipates an unchanged inflation rate of –0.4% for 2016. For 2017, however, the forecast is down to 0.1%, from 0.2% in the previous quarter. For 2018, the SNB now expects inflation of 0.5%, compared to 0.6% in the third quarter. The conditional inflation forecast is based on the assumption that the three-month Libor remains at –0.75% over the entire forecast horizon.

According to an initial quarterly estimate, GDP in Switzerland grew at an annualised rate of 0.2% in the third quarter. This small increase must also be seen in the context of high growth in the second quarter. Year-on-year, GDP rose by 1.3% in the third quarter. Overall, economic indicators point to a continuation of the moderate economic recovery in Switzerland and are thus consistent with our previous GDP growth forecast of around 1.5% for 2016 as a whole. Developments on the labour market support this view. Up until November, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for this year was stable at 3.3%. Survey-based labour demand indicators have recovered further. The outlook for the coming year is cautiously optimistic. As for 2016, the SNB expects GDP growth for 2017 to be roughly 1.5%. Prevailing international risks mean that forecasts, including Switzerland’s, continue to be fraught with considerable uncertainties. Over the last six months, growth on the mortgage and real estate markets has remained fairly constant at a relatively low level. At the same time, imbalances on these markets have decreased slightly overall due to developments in fundamentals. However, imbalances are still at a similarly high level as in 2014, when the sectoral countercyclical capital buffer was set at 2%. The SNB will continue to monitor developments on these markets closely, and will regularly reassess the need for an adjustment of the countercyclical capital buffer. 

SNB | Yekaterina Guchshina | yekaterina@tradingeconomics.com
12/15/2016 9:06:21 AM