January 22, 2020 / 6:29 PM / in a month

Swiss central bank to end negative rates 'as soon as we are able'

FILE PHOTO: A Swiss National Bank logo is pictured on the SNB building in Bern, Switzerland September 3, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

LAUSANNE (Reuters) - The Swiss National Bank (SNB) will end negative interest rates “as soon as we are able,” governing board member Andrea Maechler said on Wednesday, when asked about the central bank’s ultra-loose monetary policy aimed at curbing the Swiss franc’s overvaluation.

The SNB is under pressure to adjust its policies after years of negative interest rates, including from politicians who worry they are, among other things, hurting retirees’ savings. Still, officials including Maechler have said the SNB’s current tack is essential to keep a lid on the safe-haven currency, whose strength hurts Switzerland’s exporters and hampers the economy’s growth.

The franc is currently near its strongest levels against the euro since mid-2017, having gained this month after Switzerland’s re-appearance on a U.S. Treasury watch list of potential currency manipulators.

However, on Wednesday it fell as much as half a percent, after data this week indicated the SNB had stepped up its intervention in the market.

Speaking at a banking event in Lausanne, Maechler said the U.S. anti-interventionist salvo would not impact the SNB’s policies governing foreign-exchange market moves that it has said are guided by monetary policy considerations, not to keep the franc’s value artificially low.

“We’ve always had an excellent dialogue with the Americans,” she said. “They understand the position of Switzerland which is a unique position and we don’t have the right to intervene just to intervene. We will only intervene if there is a need.”

Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by John Miller

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