SNB Boosts Stake in Apple in $37.5 Billion U.S. Portfolio

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The Swiss National Bank increased its stake in Apple Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Johnson & Johnson in the first quarter, taking its U.S. equity holdings to $37.5 billion.

Switzerland’s central bank owned 8.9 million shares in the iPhone maker on March 31, according to a regulatory filing made to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. That’s up from 5.6 million shares at the end of 2014, a 60 percent increase, according to Bloomberg calculations.

The SNB’s holdings of Exxon grew by 48 percent, while its J&J stake rose by 44 percent. Those three companies were its biggest U.S. investments, unchanged from a quarter earlier.

The increase reflects the central bank’s asset allocation at the end of March. According to data last week, it boosted the proportion of equities in its foreign exchange holdings to 18 percent from 15 percent. The percentage of its dollar holdings rose to 32 percent from 29 percent in the period.

SNB spokesman Walter Meier declined to comment on the U.S. equity stakes, which were published Wednesday.

According to the SEC filing, the SNB held shares in more than 2,500 U.S.-listed companies, valued at $37.5 billion. A quarter earlier, it held U.S. shares worth $26.7 billion.

U.S. equities have climbed to record levels this year amid a surge in technology, energy and biotechnology stocks. The Nasdaq Composite Index ended the January-to-March period with a 3.5 percent gain -- extending the number of quarterly advances to nine. The S&P 500, meanwhile, clung to a 0.4 percent gain to maintain its quarterly winning streak.

Index Replication

The SNB stands out among major central banks for its equity investments. It had 522 billion francs ($572 billion) of foreign exchange reserves at the end of March, acquired due to interventions to defend the currency cap of 1.20 per euro it had in place from 2011 to early 2015.

The central bank, which has the bulk of its foreign exchange reserves in highly rated government bonds, doesn’t otherwise disclose the stakes it holds in individual companies. According to its most recent annual report, it held a “globally well-diversified” equity portfolio of over 5,800 individual stocks. It replicates broad-based indexes in order to serve the interest of monetary policy rather than generate a profit. Some companies are excluded on ethical grounds.

“Equities are managed according to a set of rules based on a strategic benchmark comprising a combination of equity indices in various markets and currencies,” it said in its annual report.

Since abolishing the 1.20 per euro cap on the franc on Jan. 15 and cutting the deposit rate further to minus 0.75 percent, SNB policy makers have said they remain able to intervene in foreign-exchange markets to ensure monetary conditions remain adequate.

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