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Swiss franc drops to 2-week low on talk of SNB hand, informal band

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The Swiss franc hit a two-week low against the euro and the dollar on Monday, on talk that the Swiss National Bank was intervening to weaken the currency and on a report that it was targeting a new informal band.

A Swiss newspaper, Schweiz am Sonntag, reported on Sunday that the SNB is unofficially targeting an exchange rate of 1.05-1.10 francs per euro, citing sources close to the bank. A spokesman for the central bank declined to comment on the story.

On Jan. 15, the SNB shocked markets by removing a cap of 1.20 francs per euro, a move that saw the Swiss franc initially surge more than 40 percent. It has since given up some of those gains and now trades about 13 percent higher against the euro compared to just before the cap was removed.

Data released on Monday showed that bank deposits with the SNB rose in the week ending Jan. 30, fueling speculation that the central bank has been active.

The euro was up 1.9 percent on the day against the Swiss franc at 1.05800 francs while the dollar was higher by a similar margin at 0.9345 francs.

"It is chatter that there is an informal band and the sight deposits data suggests that the SNB is there in the market,'' said Manuel Oliveri FX strategist at Credit Agricole.

"The SNB is trying to smoothe the flows and the volatility. Also we are seeing that our clients are staying away from this currency because of the all the volatility that we have seen.''

Citi said in a note that the report of an informal target for the euro/Swiss franc is likely to "reinforce the perception invisible hands have encouraged the Swiss franc lower.''

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Against the dollar, the euro was 0.35 percent higher, trading at $1.13155, taking some comfort from its gains against the Swiss franc and purchasing managers' surveys showing manufacturing growth in Ireland, Spain and the Netherlands.

But gains are likely to be capped on concerns that Greece is yet to persuade a skeptical Europe to accept a new debt agreement.

The dollar recovered from a two-week low of 116.64 yen, to trade 0.2 percent higher at 117.635 yen.

Dollar buying by Japanese importers helped the greenback, but analysts said the dollar looks vulnerable after data on Friday showed the U.S. economy slowed in the fourth quarter, driving Treasury yields to new lows.

"Now that U.S. GDP growth has come lower than expected, markets are paying more attention to other U.S. data, to be released in the coming days,'' said Kengo Suzuki, chief forex strategist at Mizuho Securities.

Among key numbers, U.S. ISM non-manufacturing data will be out on Monday and the latest non-farm payrolls report is due on Friday.