SNB Holdings of Lower-Rated Bonds Rise as Japan Credit Grade CutCatherine Bosley
The Swiss National Bank’s holdings of A-rated fixed income increased at the end of last year as countries including Japan were downgraded, data on its website showed Friday.
The SNB had 10 percent of its reserves in A-rated bonds as of Dec. 31, compared with 3 percent at the end of the third quarter. The share of AA-rated bonds slipped to 22 percent from 29 percent, while that of AAA-rated bonds held at 63 percent, according to the report. SNB spokesman Walter Meier declined to comment on the reasons for the shift.
Japan, whose currency accounted for 8 percent of the SNB’s reserves, was lowered to A1 from Aa3 by Moody’s Investors Service in December. While that suggests the shift in holdings was a passive one, some economists and investors say the SNB may actively seek higher yields in future by investing in lower-rated assets. That follows an appreciation of the franc against the euro after the SNB’s suspension of its currency cap exposed the central bank to losses.
“The SNB will likely expand its risk tolerance in order to compensate for losses due to further euro weakness,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, analyst at Swissquote Bank SA in Gland, Switzerland. “We would not be surprised to see the SNB shifting from euro holdings to non-euro, higher-yielding fixed-income assets to diversify its portfolio risk now that there is no more the 1.20-floor constraint.”
The SNB, based in Zurich and Bern, unexpectedly gave up its cap on Jan. 15 after the prospect of quantitative easing by the European Central Bank increased pressure on the franc, triggering ever-larger interventions. The defence of the mark since it was introduced in 2011 has left the SNB with foreign-currency reserves of 495 billion francs ($535 billion).
Some 46 percent were held in euros at the end of December, compared with 45 percent in the prior quarter, according to the report. The allocations for dollars was constant at 29 percent.