Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- The Swiss National Bank’s U.S. stock portfolio rose to $54.5 billion francs at the end of March as the central bank boosted the proportion of equities in its foreign exchange reserves.

The value of the SNB’s U.S. holdings increased by 32 percent in the first quarter, from $41.3 billion at the end of last year, according to calculations by Bloomberg News based on the central bank’s regulatory filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and published on Wednesday. The S&P 500 rose 0.8 percent over that period.

Unlike many other major central banks, the SNB invests in equities, with 20 percent of its 576.5 billion-franc ($603 billion) foreign-exchange portfolio held in shares as of the end of March. That’s a 2 percentage point increase from the end of December. Spokesman Walter Meier at the SNB declined to comment on Wednesday’s SEC filing, which is the only detailed disclosure of the central bank’s stock holdings. It showed the institution had stakes in some 2,600 companies listed in the U.S.

As of the end of March, the SNB’s top U.S. holdings were Apple Inc. Microsoft Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp., according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The number of shares it held in the iPhone-maker increased 40 percent, while its stake in the software-producer rose 41 percent and that in the oil explorer 38 percent.

SNB officials have said repeatedly that they replicate broad-based indexes to serve the interest of monetary policy rather than to generate a profit. Some companies are excluded on ethical grounds.

“The SNB adopts a passive approach,” SNB Governing Board Member Andrea Maechler said in a speech on March 31. “This means, in particular, that we do not actively engage in equity selection”

To contact the reporter on this story: Catherine Bosley in Geneva at cbosley1@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fergal O'Brien at fobrien@bloomberg.net, Zoe Schneeweiss, Paul Gordon

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