Chart Of The Day: How The Swiss National Bank Went "All In", Three Times And Counting
Think the Fed (with its balance sheet amounting to over 20% of US GDP), or the ECB (at 30% of GDP) is bad? Then take a look at the balance sheet of the Swiss National Bank, whose assets now amount to some 75% of Swiss GDP and which has now "literally bet the bank" in the words of the WSJ not once, not twice, but three times in a bid to keep the Swiss Franc - that default flight to safety haven - low, and engaging in what is semi-stealth currency warfare by buying other sovereigns' currencies for over two years now, although he hardly expect the US Treasury to even consider it for inclusion on its list of currency manipulators - after all, "everyone is doing it".
More from the WSJ:
The nation's central bank is printing and selling as many Swiss francs as needed to keep its currency from climbing against the euro, wagering an amount approaching Switzerland's total national output, and, in the process, turning from button-down conservative to the globe's biggest risk-taker.
Switzerland's virtue is the root of its problem: broad confidence in the Swiss currency and economy has investors hungry for francs to escape euros, the currency of its shaky European neighbors. Such demand makes francs more expensive and, in turn, drives up the price of Swiss exports.
In the past three years, the Swiss National Bank SNBN.EB -0.20% has printed francs to buy euros and other currencies in a swelling portfolio of foreign assets four times what it was at the beginning of 2010.
Nearly every major central bank is buying nontraditional assets to resurrect domestic economies in the wake of the worst global recession in 75 years. The U.S. Federal Reserve is buying mortgages; the European Central Bank is making unusually long loans to banks; and the Bank of Japan is buying real-estate investment funds.
All risk losing money, but Switzerland's exposure stands out in character and scale: Its central bank is buying assets from other countries and its holdings of currencies, bonds, stocks and gold—nearly 500 billion Swiss francs, about $541 billion—are nearly the size of the nation's gross domestic product. In contrast, the Fed's buying of bonds and mortgages amounts to about 20% of U.S. national output, and the European Central Bank's holdings stand at 30% of total GDP.
In September 2011, the SNB set a goal of keeping its currency from rising beyond 1.20 francs to the euro, a threshold that SNB Chairman Thomas Jordan has said the bank would fight to maintain "with the utmost determination."
Given its golden reputation, the franc became a magnet for investors fleeing the beleaguered euro, pushing the currency to levels that threatened to cripple Switzerland's export-driven economy.
Although Switzerland is best known for chocolates, watches, banking and Alpine resorts, midsize specialized companies form the backbone of a manufacturing industry that accounts for one-fifth of Swiss GDP. Exports produce half the GDP, with the euro zone by far its largest customer.
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