SNB Intervenes in the Swiss Franc!

eurchf Intervention Kathy Lien swiss national bank

Last week we raised the question of what the Swiss National Bank is waiting for and why they haven’t intervened. In that article we said “Everyone has an uncle point and for the SNB there is no question that we are nearing that level…” At that time, EUR/CHF was trading at 1.4272 and apparently today’s record low of 1.4144 was all the SNB could handle!

They have denied to comment on the move in the Swiss Franc but a 265 pip rally EUR/CHF in under 6 minutes is exactly the type of move that only occurs when there is intervention. Most likely, the SNB had their buy orders sitting were right below 1.4150. Judging from the price action in EUR/CHF after interventions last year, the rally will probably not last particularly since the central bank is talking about raising interest rates.

Why the SNB Has Not Intervened in the CHF

eurchf forex blog Intervention Kathy Lien swiss national bank

For the eighth trading day in a row, EUR/CHF has failed to rally. The Swiss Franc even ended the day at a fresh record high against the euro as traders test the resolve of the Swiss National Bank. This has led many currency traders to wonder What is the SNB Waiting For? Why haven’t they intervened?

The problem is that even though the central bank has been warning about intervention, they have also been talking about raising interest rates. Over the past year, a lot of traders have sold Swiss Francs as a funding currency because of its low yield and now the prospect of a rate hike will force them to unwind their short CHF positions. Although intervention risk is exceptionally high at this time, the reason why the SNB has not intervened yet is because we are in a very different place now than in March 2009.

When the global financial crisis hit, there was a tremendous amount of deleveraging in which investors bought back Francs and closed their positions. Many Swiss banks also reduced their balance sheets, leading to downside pressure on EUR/CHF. In fact, net capital flow into Switzerland hit a record high last year. As a result, EUR/CHF fell aggressively at a time when the financial crisis was still unfolding, forcing the SNB to step into the market to weaken the Franc. The central bank intervened 3 times last year from what I can tell – in March, June and September. Since then, the global economy has stabilized, Switzerland came out of recession and the economy is improving.

With less to fear, the SNB has remained out of the market opting for verbal versus physical intervention. The trade surplus is a lot higher than last year and exports remain at healthy levels, reducing the need for intervention. Forex traders love to test the resolve of a central bank and I continue to expect them to do so until the SNB actually steps in. Everyone has an uncle point and for the SNB there is no question that we are nearing that level but as we have seen in the recent price action, betting on a move by the central bank can require deep pockets.

Was that Intervention in EUR/CHF?

Kathy Lien Swiss Franc swiss national bank

There was a sharp move intraday in EUR/CHF that smells like intervention…but was it? SNB member Hildebrand and the Bank of International Settlement has declined to comment on the move in the Swiss Franc. The first chart shows today’s price action in EUR/CHF and the second shows the price action of EUR/CHF when the SNB intervened back in March. The move in March was much bigger -- 400 pips compared to today’s 100 pip rally. Therefore I think that the move in EUR/CHF today is most likely NOT related to SNB intervention. Probably a big take profit order to buy back EUR/CHF below 1.4640.

Today’s move in EUR/CHF: 100 pip rally

EUR/CHF chart of March Intervention: 400 pip rally

Which Central Bank is Back in the Market?

Currency Intervention Kathy Lien Swiss Franc swiss national bank

Although everyone’s focus is on the Federal Reserve’s interest rate decision this afternoon, we have a lot of action in the European currencies. If you notice, the Euro is one of the few major currencies to under perform the dollar this morning because of the massively well subscribed ECB refinancing. In my daily report on FX360, I have mentioned how the EUR/USD could pull back because European banks look at the refinancing as quasi Quantitative Easing.

Although this is a big story, central bank intervention is the big focus this morning. The Swiss National Bank is at it again! They have sold Swiss Francs aggressively, driving EUR/CHF and USD/CHF up more than 1 percent. Last week, I talked about how a move down to 1.50 creates a good risk / reward opportunity. EUR/CHF fell to 1.5007 last night, which probably triggered alarm bells at the SNB.

Here is a chart of the move in EUR/CHF this morning. On FX360, I posted a more thorough analysis as well as charts from previous SNB interventions.

Switzerland to Charge Forward with Currency Intervention

Currency Intervention EURJPY Kathy Lien Swiss Franc swiss national bank

The Swiss National Bank has been intervening in the currency market since March. Unlike other central banks who have failed at intervention, the SNB has done a fantastic job keeping EUR/CHF above 1.50 for the past 3 months. The SNB focuses on EUR/CHF over USD/CHF because the European Union is by far the country’s largest trading partner. The Swiss National Bank has a monetary policy decision on Thursday and interest rates are expected to remain at 0.25 percent. If they could, Switzerland would probably cut interest rates. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs just released their latest economic forecasts. GDP growth is expected to contract by 2.7 percent this year compared to a prior forecast of -2.2 percent. The economy is also now expected to shrink instead of grow in 2010. Therefore the SNB will not be abandoning their loose monetary policies anytime soon.

However for currency traders, the more important takeaway from the meeting will be the Swiss National Bank’s reluctance to rescind its commitment to currency intervention. If that is the case, then current levels may present a buying opportunity for range traders as the SNB is likely to actively maintain this incredibly yawn inducing range in EUR/CHF.

Meanwhile the EUR/JPY trade that I posted earlier this week has hit its target of the first standard deviation Bollinger Band. The 50-day SMA now at 132.30 will provide some support but if that level is broken, we could see a move down to 130.