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Swiss National Bank keep expansive policy, cuts inflation view

Reuters with CNBC
Key Points
  • Swiss National Bank leaves interest rates unchanged, as expected by analysts.
  • The SNB also said it had revised its inflation outlook on Thursday. 
  • It comes ahead of the ECB's policy meeting later in the day. 
The Swiss National Bank (SNB), Switzerland's central bank, in Bern, Switzerland, on Wednesday, April 18, 2012.
Gianluca Colla | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) kept its ultra-loose monetary policy in place on Thursday, citing the "fragile" exchange rate situation as a reason to maintain its expansive course into its fourth year.

The SNB kept its target range for the three-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) at -1.25 to -0.25 percent, as unanimously forecast by 32 economists polled by Reuters. The rate has been frozen at this level since January 2015.

The central bank also kept in place the negative interest rate of -0.75 percent it charges on deposits held by commercial banks above a certain level, and said it remained ready to intervene in the foreign exchange markets if needed.

Swiss central bank president Thomas Jordan told CNBC's Julianna Tatelbaum on Thursday that global growth was weighing on the Swiss economy.

"The global economy is weaker than six months ago and the same is true for Switzerland. But in the last half of 2017 and first half of 2018 we had extraordinary growth and now we are going back to a more normal level of growth," he said.

Jordan added that the SNB is expecting Swiss growth across 2019 to be around 1.5 percent.

VIDEO3:3603:36
SNB president: Inflation will weaken if global risks materialize

Echoing the bank's earlier statement, Jordan told CNBC that it was clear the Swiss franc remained "highly valued" and that the negative interest rate would remain in place to try to repel any rush of  investors in the currency.

Jordan said that, if necessary, either a further reduction of rates or buying of foreign exchange could be used to depress the franc's value.

"We ready to intervene in the foreign exchange market in order to reduce the pressure on the Swiss franc," he added.

The SNB does not need to raise interest rates to head off inflation in Switzerland, with its inflation forecasts for 2018, 2019 and 2020 all below 2 percent.

For 2018, the SNB said it still expects inflation of 0.9 percent. It cut its forecast to 0.5 percent in 2019 from its 0.8 percent view in September, and to 1.0 percent in 2020 from the previous 1.2 percent.

It saw Swiss economic growth slowing to 1.5 percent next year from an estimated 2.5 percent in 2018.

The central bank is widely expected to wait until the European Central Bank starts hiking its deposit rate - which stands at -0.4 percent - before normalising policy.

The ECB is due to update its staff projections on growth and inflation at its policy meeting later on Thursday.

VIDEO2:4402:44
Switzerland’s SNB leaves rates unchanged and revises inflation forecasts