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Why Fink Says Swiss Avoiding Recession May Be Bad News for Euro

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Why Fink Says Swiss Avoiding Recession May Be Bad News for Euro

Larry Fink says he’s worried about a recession in Switzerland. That there won’t be one.

If the export-dependent Swiss avoid a slump after a surge in the franc it would make the idea of surviving an overvalued currency -- and leaving the euro -- a little more conceivable in Germany, according to Fink, the co-founder and chief executive officer of BlackRock Inc. Think Gerexit.

“There’s always been a debate, should Germany be in or out of the euro,” Fink told Bloomberg Television’s Erik Schatzker and Stephanie Ruhle during last week’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “One of the arguments has always been about Germany -- is it would-be suicide if they walked away from the euro because it would have a currency that revalued 20 or 30 percent.”

If Switzerland avoids a “recession and the economy continues to fare fairly nicely what does it mean for an economy a little north of here?” he said atop the Alps. “I do believe it will lead to a large debate within Germany from the right wing about look what Switzerland did.”

Since the Swiss National Bank’s surprise decision of Jan. 15 to jettison the three-year policy, the franc has gained about 17 percent against the euro, raising worries of a deflationary spiral.

Fink, whose firm is the world’s largest money manager, predicts a recession. Still, he may not be reassured by the outlook from Credit Suisse Group AG, Switzerland’s second-largest bank. Its economists reckon a contraction should be avoided with growth slowing to 0.8 percent in 2015, albeit half the previous forecast, and then accelerating to 1.2 percent in 2016.

Swiss Stakes

While investment and exports will be hurt by the higher franc, a recovery in the euro area will provide a boost and local consumers will get a lift from falling prices and low interest rates, Credit Suisse’s economists said in a Jan. 19 report.

“I’m going to spend a lot of time over the next year to follow the Swiss economy” after the SNB’s decision, said Fink. “The big test will be will this lead to a recession. If it doesn’t that’s more problematic for me.”

(An earlier version of this story were corrected to fix the franc’s gain against the euro.)

(For more Economy Line insights, see NI ECOLINE.)