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(Bloomberg) -- The Swiss National Bank reduced the number of shares it held in Apple Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Johnson & Johnson in the fourth quarter, a U.S. regulatory filing shows.

The central bank, based in Bern and Zurich, owned 4.7 percent fewer shares in the iPhone maker on Dec. 31 than at the end of September, according to a Feb. 3 filing. It cut its holdings in Exxon by 3.5 percent, while its J&J stake declined by 7.4 percent. Those companies still remained its top three U.S. equity holdings, the data showed.

The SNB stands out among major central banks for its equity investments -- the U.S. Federal Reserve isn’t allowed to purchase stocks. The Swiss central bank’s holdings stem from its decision to invest 15 percent of its foreign-exchange reserves in shares, with the majority in highly rated government bonds.

The SNB’s foreign-currency reserves rose significantly after it set a minimum exchange rate of 1.20 per euro on the franc in September 2011. It gave up that ceiling last month, with Governing Board Member Fritz Zurbruegg saying huge interventions would have been needed to sustain it.

SNB policy makers have since said they can intervene in foreign-exchange markets to ensure monetary conditions remain adequate. As of the end of January, the SNB held foreign currencies worth 498.4 billion francs ($539.1 billion).

The SNB doesn’t otherwise disclose the stakes it holds in individual companies. As of the end of December, it was invested in about 2,500 U.S.-listed companies, the SEC filing shows.

The SNB replicate broad-based indexes in order to serve the interest of monetary policy rather than generate a profit. Some companies are excluded on ethical grounds.

--With assistance from Roxana Zega in Zurich.

To contact the reporter on this story: Catherine Bosley in Zurich at cbosley1@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fergal O’Brien at fobrien@bloomberg.net Zoe Schneeweiss, Jana Randow

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