Why Switzerland's Franc May Be the Must-Buy Around `Brexit' Vote

  • Franc will act as `ultimate safe haven' if `Brexit' happens
  • UBS Wealth expects Britain to stay in EU after June 23 vote

The battered pound may rally about 9 percent against the Swiss franc if Britain votes to remain in the European Union, according to UBS Wealth Management, which manages about $2 trillion.

A vote by Britain to exit the world’s largest trading bloc has the potential to move the pound, which has slid 6.9 percent against the franc this year, down by a “decent amount” versus its Swiss peer, which would act as the “ultimate” haven in such a scenario, the Zurich-based wealth manager said.

The pound is trailing behind all its Group-of-10 major counterparts this year amid speculation a June 23 vote to quit the EU would set back the U.K.’s economic recovery, which would then keep the Bank of England from tightening monetary policy. The Federal Reserve started raising rates last year and traders put the odds of another move before the July policy meeting at 51 percent, from 35 percent at the end of February.

“In our base case, the result will be the continued membership of the U.K. in the EU, which should lift the exchange rate above 1.50” per franc, UBS Wealth strategists Constantin Bolz and Daniel Trum wrote in a research note. “The swings in the pound/franc will be large before and just after the referendum.”

A vote to leave would also hurt the euro as “markets would start questioning the very idea” of the EU, they wrote.

The best hedge against the risk of Britain voting to leave the EU isn’t selling the nation’s own currency, but buying the franc, HSBC Holdings Plc strategists led by David Bloom wrote in a report this month.

The pound depreciated for a third day versus the franc, slipping 0.5 percent to 1.3746 francs as of 4:32 p.m. London time, having reached 1.3728, the lowest since since Feb. 24. Sterling slid 0.8 percent to $1.4096 and was 0.3 percent weaker at 79.22 pence per euro. Europe’s shared currency fell 0.2 percent to 1.0886 francs.

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