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Figures confirm Swiss efforts to contain franc

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) has spent more than SFr40 billion ($37.2 billion) buying up euros this year to prevent the Swiss franc from gaining further in value.

This content was published on May 2, 2010 - 13:05

Official figures show that Switzerland’s foreign exchange reserves went up by SFr30.2 billion in the first quarter, with the central bank buying heavily into euros and selling Swiss francs.

“The bank was very active in the first quarter”, the head of foreign exchange research at Credit Suisse, Marcus Hettinger told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, adding, however, that the value of the Swiss currency was rising within limits.

Over the last six months, the euro has weakened by more than ten per cent against the United States dollar but only around five per cent against the Swiss currency. The euro has recently been hovering around the SFr1.43 mark.

A strong franc hampers Swiss exports because they become expensive and it also puts a brake on tourism.

"Any threat to currency stability would, by definition, have a negative impact on Switzerland, above all if the Swiss franc were to appreciate sharply due to its role as a safe haven currency," commented the president of the SNB, Philipp Hildebrand on Friday.

In a related development, Greece has reached agreement with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union on a rescue package for its debt-laden economy.

Under the austerity measures, it will cut the deficit by €30 billion euros over three years, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said on Sunday.

He said the agreement foresaw Greece's budget deficit falling to below three per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014. Debt was expected to rise to over 140 percent of GDP and then fall from 2014.

Papaconstantinou added that the measures included a rise in value added tax to 23 percent from 21 percent, a ten per cent increase in fuel and alcohol taxes, and a further reduction in public sector salaries and pensions.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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