Swiss National Bank Equity Holdings Rise in First Quarter

The proportion of equities in the Swiss National Bank’s foreign-currency investments rose to a record in the first quarter, while the allocation among currencies was little changed.

The share of stocks in the central bank’s portfolio climbed to 15 percent at the end of the first quarter, compared with 12 percent at the end of last year, according to data on the Zurich-based institution’s website today. Its holdings of government bonds fell to 78 percent from 82 percent.

The SNB has amassed foreign-exchange reserves of 446 billion Swiss francs ($476 billion) -- a sum equal to three quarters of the economy’s annual output -- as a result of the interventions it has waged to defend the cap of 1.20 per euro, set in September 2011 to prevent a recession.

With bond yields low, central banks around the world are buying more equities. In a survey of 60 central banks this month by Central Banking Publications and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, 23 percent said they own shares or plan to buy them.

Rising stock prices contributed 4.9 billion francs to the SNB’s 11.2 billion franc profit for the first quarter, it said in a separate statement today. President Thomas Jordan has stressed the SNB’s asset management is conducted with a view of implementing monetary policy rather than generating a profit.

Holdings Steady

The SNB had 48 percent of its reserves in euros at the end of the first quarter, compared with 49 percent at the end of 2012, data showed. Its yen holdings rose to 9 percent from 8 percent, while the share of dollars slipped to 27 percent from 28 percent.

With anxiety among investors over the euro area’s debt crisis easing, the dollar appreciated 4 percent against the franc and the euro gained 0.9 percent against the Swiss currency in the first three months of the year. Those exchange-rate gains outweighed losses against the yen and sterling, the SNB said.

The SNB is always willing to consider new investment opportunities, Board Member Fritz Zurbruegg said in an interview published earlier this month in RBS Reserve Management Trends 2013.

Switzerland’s central bank bought South Korean won last year, after expanding into Singapore dollars, Danish krone and Swedish krona previously. Those currencies, together with Australian dollars, made up 5 percent of reserves at the end of March, up from 4 percent.

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