SNB Reduces Holdings in Apple, Exxon, J&J, SEC Filing Shows

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The Swiss National Bank reduced the number of shares it held in Apple Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Johnson & Johnson in the third quarter, a U.S. regulatory filing shows.

The central bank, based in Bern and Zurich, owned 4 percent fewer shares in the iPhone-maker on Sept. 30 than at the end of June, according to yesterday’s filing. It cut its holdings in Exxon by 2.1 percent, while its J&J stake declined by 1.6 percent. Those companies still remained its top three U.S. equity holdings, the data showed.

The SNB stands out among major central banks for its equity investments -- the U.S. Federal Reserve isn’t allowed to purchase stocks. The Swiss central bank’s holdings stem from its decision to invest 16 percent of its foreign-exchange reserves in shares, with the majority in highly rated government bonds.

The SNB’s foreign-currency reserves expanded by more than a third after it set a minimum exchange rate of 1.20 per euro on the franc in September 2011. They totaled 462 billion francs ($480 billion) in October. SNB policy makers have said they haven’t had to intervene to defend the cap since September 2012.

SNB spokeswoman Silvia Oppliger declined to comment on the filing, which the SNB is required to make to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SNB doesn’t otherwise disclose the stakes it holds in individual companies. As of the end of September, it held stakes in about 2,500 U.S.-listed companies, the SEC filing shows.

According to Governing Board member Fritz Zurbruegg, the SNB’s investment strategy is to replicate broad-based indexes. Some companies are excluded on ethical grounds.