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Central bank relieved at falling franc

Central bank governing board member Niklaus Blattner has welcomed the falling franc Keystone Archive

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) has welcomed recent falls in the value of the franc, but hinted that it was still willing to play an interventionist role.

Niklaus Blattner, vice-chairman of the bank’s three-member board, said the SNB was prepared to act should the franc rise suddenly against the euro.

Sharp increases in the Swiss currency have been a major concern to exporters and international firms who report in francs.

However, the swift end to the war in Iraq has seen the franc slide. Global investors traditionally view Switzerland’s currency as a safe haven during times of conflict.

The euro has risen in value above SFr1.51 for the first time in more than 18 months, clear of what many businesses regard as the crucial SFr1.50 pain threshold

Blattner said he was impressed by the speed at which the franc had decreased following the end of the conflict in Iraq.

“I was very pleasantly surprised that it went so quickly,” he told the “Berner Zeitung” on Monday.

However, Blattner expressed concern that the US dollar to Swiss franc rate (SFr1.35) was still hurting exporters.

“We cannot tackle this problem like we can tackle the euro problem,” said Blattner. “There are too many factors at work which determine the dollar rate.”

Growth slowing

The SNB officially predicts growth of less than one per cent in 2003; however, Blattner said he could not discount that this might not be achieved.

“We cannot rule out that our expectations for this year – of just less than one per cent growth – could be disappointed and that the recovery process could slow.”

Switzerland’s economy remains severely restricted by the economic downturn in its key European and North American trading partners.

In an attempt to boost growth, the SNB has eased monetary policy by setting record-low interest rates.

Blattner said the provision of cheap money for the Swiss economy did not mean there was any threat of inflation.

“We have no reason to assume that we are creating the potential for danger here,” he said.

swissinfo with agencies

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