Switzerland’s Central Bank wants to Destroy the Franc
August 16, 2011
Although the value of the Franc is in part a consequence of the current global economic crisis, the government and the central bank want to artificially devalue it. No paper currency is safe –from the bankers.
By Simone Meier
August 15, 2011
Switzerland, the nation that hasn’t gone to war with a foreign power since Napoleon, is reluctantly debating a generational taboo: ceding monetary independence to win a battle over its runaway currency.
Swiss National Bank Vice President Thomas Jordan said the central bank is assessing “a whole range of options” to prevent the franc, which reached a record against the euro this month, from making Swiss goods prohibitively expensive. Even a cup of coffee at Café St. Gotthard in Zurich costs $8.30, with one Swiss franc buying $1.2750 at today’s exchange rate.
Billionaire entrepreneur Christoph Blocher, one of the politicians who called on SNB President Philipp Hildebrand to resign after the bank lost $21 billion last year in a vain attempt to restrain the currency, now supports a franc target.
“The franc is catastrophically overvalued,” said Blocher, a former justice minister for the People’s Party, Switzerland’s largest. “It’s almost like economic warfare — to wage a war, you must use all measures at your disposal, and you must win.”
Switzerland’s currency is 41 percent overvalued against the euro, based on purchasing power parity as calculated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That’s “a headache,” according to ABB Ltd., the world’s largest maker of power-transmission gear, which responded by buying more parts from euro-region suppliers to feed its Swiss factories. Workers at Lonza AG, a Basel-based chemicals maker, are working longer hours without extra pay, while VonRoll Infratec AG, the Zug- based maker of piping systems and castings, is paying some salaries in euros.
“If the franc can’t be weakened, many machinery makers will have to take drastic decisions this fall,” Economiesuisse, the country’s biggest business lobby group, said. The Swiss currency slid for a fourth day versus the dollar yesterday and tumbled against the euro, heading for its biggest three-day decline since the European currency’s 1999 debut.
The franc, considered a haven in times of turmoil, has appreciated 10 percent versus the euro this year, reaching a record 1.0075 on Aug. 9. Against the dollar, the currency traded at 79.98 centimes yesterday, down from an all-time high of 70.71 centimes earlier this month. A visitor to a Swiss branch of McDonald’s Corp. pays 128 percent more for a Big Mac than a U.S. diner, up from a 72 percent premium a year ago, according to a Bloomberg index that measures burger prices in dollars.
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