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SNB Keeps Negative Rate On Hold; Says Franc 'Highly Valued'

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The Swiss National Bank maintained its expansionary monetary policy stance and tweaked its view on the currency while raising the inflation forecast.

The interest rate on sight deposits at the SNB was retained at -0.75 percent and the target range for the three-month Libor was kept unchanged between -1.25 percent and -0.25 percent, the bank said in a statement on Thursday.

The SNB said it will remain active in the foreign exchange market as necessary, while taking the overall currency situation into consideration.

The bank observed the Swiss franc has weakened against the euro and appreciated against the dollar since the last monetary policy meeting.

"Overall, this development is helping to reduce, to some extent, the significant overvaluation of the currency," the SNB said.

Nonetheless, the Swiss franc remains "highly valued" and the situation on the foreign exchange market is still fragile, the bank added. Previously, the bank saw the Swiss franc as "significantly overvalued".

The negative interest rate and the SNB's willingness to intervene in the foreign exchange market, as necessary, remain essential in order to reduce the attractiveness of Swiss franc investments and thus ease pressure on the Swiss franc, the bank said.

Jessica Hinds, an economist at Capital Economics, does not expect the SNB to raise rates before the end of 2019.

The SNB's continued accommodative policy stance, while the European Central Bank gradually reduces its policy support, suggests that the franc will depreciate further over the next couple of years, the economist said.

The SNB raised its inflation projections slightly for both this year and next to 0.4 percent from 0.3 percent each. For 2019, inflation was estimated to be 1.1 percent instead of 1 percent.

The economic indicators signaled moderate recovery in the Swiss economy that has benefited from the consolidation of global economic activity and renewed momentum in goods exports.

Citing the weak GDP momentum in late 2016/early 2017, the SNB lowered the current year growth outlook to just under 1.0 percent from roughly 1.5 percent.

Regarding the mortgage lending and property market, the SNB said imbalances on the mortgage and real estate markets persist. The bank said it will continue to monitor developments on these markets closely and reassess the need for an adjustment of the countercyclical capital buffer.

by RTT Staff Writer

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