What happened to the Swiss franc in 2015?
There’s no currency story more important, or at least more explosive, than the Swiss National Bank (SNB) removing the 1.2000 EUR/CHF peg back in January 2015. It was a total surprise for most and it sparked a move so massive that it had forex traders and brokers on the wrong side of the move in either total shock, crying to their mommies, and/or planning a bank heist to find a way to pay their margin calls. For those on the right side…well, I’m sure a couple rounds at the pub were on them that day.
After the SNB peg removal, the Swiss franc crushed any and all wannabe sellers by around 18% – 20% in that one session–an astounding move for any market on its own–but for currencies, it was inconceivable for a major currency to move that way before that day. Of course, with no liquid market below that 1.2000 level to absorb euro bears and the sudden surge of franc bulls on the news, the massive sell off and effects on the rest of the major currencies should have not been a surprise to anyone, only when it would finally end.
Since then, Switzerland managed to fight off a recession despite the high currency valuation likely hurting export companies, and price action in the franc was likely influenced by movements in the other major currencies (specifically in the euro) and global risk sentiment. And we also saw the market give back a lot of its gains from that day, likely on the back of SNB intervention efforts to weaken the currency to help Switzerland’s export sector. This was no small feat given the global shift to risk aversion thanks to China and the commodities markets, which tends to drive buyers into the franc as they unload riskier assets.
What’s next for the franc?
The big drivers to look out for the Swiss franc are a major global catalyst to shift risk sentiment because of its “safe haven” status, and from the SNB, look for more of the same in terms of the SNB doing what it can to keep the franc’s value down against the euro as SNB Chairman Thomas Jordan recently re-iterated. Also consider that it’ll be a tough choice for the SNB to maintain negative interest rates as they do have unintended negative consequences that the SNB must consider (e.g., retirement savings deterioration, real estate market bubbles, etc.) that may keep the Swiss economy from doing anything more than modest growth in 2016 as Credit Suisse recently suggests.
Overall, I think with the peg out of the way, focus will continue to remain on the rest of the majors, but always be prepared for the Swiss National Bank and the Swiss franc to make big noise at ANY time…what do you think about the franc in 2016? Please vote in our poll or leave a comment below!