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Negative rates may have to go even lower, says SNB chief

Swiss National Bank Chairman Thomas Jordan told NZZ am Sonntag that further easing of monetary policy “may be necessary”. © Keystone / Anthony Anex

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) may lower interest rates further into negative territory, SNB Chairman Thomas Jordan told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper.

This content was published on November 3, 2019 - 10:40
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The SNB’s deposit rate has been at -0.75% - one of the lowest rates in the world - for almost five years, part of a trend toward ultra-low rates evident across industrialized economies.

In an interview with NZZ am SonntagExternal link, Jordan said interest rates could remain low for a long time and further easing of monetary policy “may be necessary”.

“Our interest rate flexibility is not unlimited, but we have the opportunity to make further decreases,” he said.

With negative interest rates and increased foreign currency investments, the SNB tries to weaken demand for the safe haven Swiss franc and prevent the currency from becoming too strong. However, this complicates life for Swiss businesses, say critics.

Last week, the Swiss Bankers Association called for negative rates to be scrapped, saying they were no longer needed. 

Bankers in Europe complain that record-low interest rates are hurting profit margins and offer diminishing economic returns. On Wednesday, Credit Suisse Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam said they are “not helpful to the banking sector” and would have to change. 

Jordan also rejects the idea that the public might withdraw their money out of the banks and keep it at home if interest rates fall further.

“The costs and risks associated with storing liquidity are higher than the costs of current negative interest rates,” he said.

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