But What will Happen to Switzerland?
Updated: 17 January 2015
Econintersect: The Swiss National Bank shocked financial markets on Thursday by scrapping a three-year-old cap on the franc, sending the currency soaring against the euro. Reuters said “stocks were plunging on fears for the export-reliant Swiss economy. Michael Haltman at GEI News (Switzerland Goes Further into Never-Never Land) had quotes from Clare O’Dea at SWI describing in detail how manufacturing, exporting and tourism in Switzerland would be hurt, but also pointing out that retail prices for the many imported products in Switzerland would be coming down.
Trade Summary for Switzerland
The Swiss have a relatively small balance of trade compared to the U.S., Germany and China, with latest data showing a trade surplus of nearly 4 CHF billion for the last month reported, November 2014. This had been driven up from the 5-year average around 2 CHF billion by the weakening euro and the franc peg to that currency. The trade surplus for Switzerland at 2 billion CHF is (+) 0.4% of total trade value (exports plus imports). The corresponding number for the U.S. is (-) 9-10% and for Germany about (+) 10%.
The countries that Switzerland trades with and the products traded are shown in the following graphics. Go to their source, The Observatory of Economic Complexity, for interactive graphics that show the data behind every tile by pointing with your cursor.
With the change of the exchange rate for CHF to the U.S. dollar changing by 15% (1.02 CHF for 1 $ to 0.87 CHF, the cost of Switzerland’s most recent annual oil and petroleum products imports which cost about 13.76 CHF billion would have been a little less than 12 CHK billion. So there are some positives in the revaluation impacting the balance of trade.
Shaking up Forex
Primary effects (exchange with the Swiss franc) were generally large. Some examples: The U.S. dollar dropped about 15% against the franc, the euro about 16.7% and the yen about 12%. Rates have bounced around after the initial reaction as shown in the following charts.
The euro was originally down to $1.158 (-1.75%) has since come back to 1.1627 (-1.32%). Both percentages are vs. the early am high of the day (15 January) at 1.1782.
A different kind of uncertainty is seen in the USDCHF chart where a “flash crash” of 25% occurred right after the announcement but then the exchange trading quickly quieted down, although it was still much more volatile than before the revaluation announcement from Zurich.
There will be some fallout but, except for traders going on heightened nerve alert for another currency market bombshell (like a Grexit – Greece exit from the euro – or a move to more freely floating Chinese yuan renminbi), the adjustments in the markets in general will probably be less traumatic than many were speculating several hours ago. If the balance of trade were to go negative it would require that the fiscal balance that Switzerland has had at zero (neither deficit nor surplus) for the past two years would be forced into deficit to avoid a private sector monetary contraction. (See Sectoral Balances.) But it is not clear that a negative balance of trade will actually occur. We’ll have to wait and see.
The Swiss Stock Exchange SMI Index declined 8.7% in the local currency, but that was an advance of more than 6% in U.S. dollar terms. The intitial reaction must be considered positive. If this price level holds for a few days the assessment must be that investors are endorsing the revaluation and are not expecting serious impacts on the Swiss economy.
The immediate reaction of the Swiss ETF (NYSE:EWL) was an advance of over 3% which was where EWL closed at the end of the day. A reflex reaction that then holds at the end of a full day is likely an advance that can be trusted. Relative strength for EWL will probably be positive in coming weeks because it should close with the SMI Index to some degree.
After a day with a lot of excitement maybe not so much has happened except maybe a period of outperformance for the Swiss market ETF.
For further explanation, read MacBeth Act 5, Scene 5, page 2.
If you prefer to read those who see much more in this than I do read:
- End of CB Power – SNB Folds (Bruce Krasting, Zero Hedge)
- ‘Francogeddon’: Swiss central bank stuns market with policy U-turn (Reuters, Sydney Morning Herald)
- Francs, Fear and Folly (Paul Krugman, The New York Times)
- Surprise Swiss move signals euro collapse (Simon Lee, The Standard – Hong Kong)
- The Next Round of the Great Crisis as Begun (Phoenix Capital Research, Zero Hedge)
Update: 17 January 2015
The following comment discussion on this article occurred at Talk Markets:
- Swiss central bank stuns market with policy U-turn (Alice Baghdjian and Silke Koltrowitz, Reuters, 15 January 2015)
- Switzerland Goes Further into Never-Never Land (Michael Haltman, GEI News, 15 January 2015)
- Learn More About Trade in Switzerland (Alexander Simoes, The Observatory of Economic Complexity,16 Janaury 2015)
- Switzerland Balance of Trade (Trading Economics, 16 January 2015)