SNB Central Bank Lesson. Never Ever Trust a Central Banker

Three years ago The Swiss National Bank stated that pegging the Swiss Franc to the Euro at 1.20 was a policy that was in place forever. Forever lasted until the cost of maintaining the peg became too great.

Anne Van Praagh, managing director of Moody’s Investors Service, said by phone from New York on Jan. 15. “The Swiss economy is significantly stronger than the European economy as a whole, so the peg didn’t make much sense and it exposed the Swiss National Bank to big valuation risks.”

Swiss Franc Bills
Swiss Franc Bills

By announcing the end of the 1.20 peg the SNB actually returned to reality. It also seriously damaged the credibility of all Central Banks. The SNB was widely regarded as being a well run Central Bank. If you can’t trust the SNB to keep its word who can you trust?

The SNB action caused tremendous losses for many retail and professional forex traders, including big names like Goldman Sachs and Barclays Bank. Total losses are far into the billions. Many speculators short Swiss Francs lost their entire equity plus, going into overloss.

Central Banks Upside Down

From TheAutomaticEarth. Link Below.

The Swiss have unleashed a pretty wild storm in financial markets. All sorts of companies and people today are licking their wounds, and quite a few will simply have to fold. It’s no exception to be so leveraged in foreign exchange wagers that a move of a few percent can wipe you out, let alone one of 30%. Leverage makes sure that right off the bat a whole bunch of foreign exchange brokers, including FXCM, the biggest, are literally dead in the water – FXCM stock fell 90% -.

We’ll hear about the real losses in the days and weeks to come, but rest assured they’ll be very substantial. Banks like Goldman, Deutsche and Barclays were heavily short the franc, and therefor of course, so were their clients. Many private investors have lost everything and then some. As if the losses from oil’s jump off the cliff weren’t damaging enough yet to the realm of finance. But, you know, the CHF franc was pegged to the slumping euro, so what did everybody really expect? The timing may have been a surprise, but come on ..

There’s number of lessons in this, but I don’t feel confident that they will be learned. If only because we’ve gotten so used to living in an upside down world that it has become a solid new normal, especially for those who’ve made a killing off of it. But everything, says physics, tends back to equilibrium. And we were many miles removed from that.

The world of finance decries the fact that the Swiss central bank didn’t ‘telegraph’ beforehand that they were going to get rid of the euro peg. And that’s completely upside down, right there. Even apart from the fact that the SNB move wouldn’t have worked if it had indicated it beforehand, what’s the idea behind central banks having to tell you anything at all? Just look at this from Bloomberg:

SNB Officials Eating Words Risk Lasting Investor Aches

Switzerland’s central bank officials have just eaten their words, risking lingering indigestion in financial markets. Just three days after Swiss National Bank (SNBN) Vice President Jean-Pierre Danthine called the franc cap a “pillar” of monetary policy, the SNB yesterday dropped the minimum exchange rate of 1.20 per euro. The shock abandonment of the SNB’s primary policy of the past three years may now leave investors warier of taking officials’ words at face value, according to economists including Karsten Junius, chief economist at Bank J. Safra Sarasin. By scrapping one tool, the franc cap, SNB President Thomas Jordan risks blunting the effects of another. “The SNB’s credibility has suffered a bit,” said Junius, a former economist at the International Monetary Fund.

“Statements will get read in the future with a bit more caution. Verbal interventions will hardly work any more.” The central bank’s regular pledge to defend the franc cap with “utmost determination” had become part of the institution’s brand, not least because of the success of that policy in protecting the country’s domestic economy. “They’ve lost part of their credibility, I think, ”Han De Jong, chief economist at ABN Amro told Angie Lau on Bloomberg TV. “Whatever they will say, markets will not trust them very much.” George Buckley at Deutsche also argues the SNB’s words are hard to reconcile with the SNB’s new policy stance. “Their commentary now means nothing,” he said. “This is not utmost determination, is it?”

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has suffered similar criticism. He was labeled an “unreliable boyfriend” by one U.K. lawmaker last year for giving conflicting messages on the possible timing of interest-rate increases in the U.K. SNB President Jordan yesterday defended his surprise move, saying that a tool like the cap would always need to be abandoned unexpectedly. Anatoli Annenkov at SocGen agrees. “It’s something we aren’t used to anymore because most central banks are talking about warning markets, improving communication, not surprising anymore,” Annenkov said by phone from London. “But in such circumstances, there’s basically no other way to do this. Markets would have speculated, positioned themselves beforehand.”

There’s this sense of entitlement seeping through from this that makes you want to, I don’t know, shout, puke? Traders and journalists that chide a central bank for not giving them what they want, when they want it? On what logical basis? That Greenspan and Bernanke did it for years, and so screwed up the entire US financial system? That information from central banks is now some god-given right for traders and bankers? Are you nuts? Are we all? We now know the Swiss are not, or let’s say that for whatever reason they did what they did, they’re not completely off their rockers.

So how about other central bankers? Everyone seems to be sure now that Draghi at the ECB has more reason than ever, after the SNB move, to launch full tilt QE. And I’m thinking, I don’t know kiddos, perhaps he has less reason now, because the markets’ faith in central banks has taken a jolt, because the effectiveness of that QE, which has been in the works forever, has already been priced in by those markets, and because the Germans are sure to contest it all throughout their court system(s). What use would a Draghi QE be at this point? Close to zero. He might still do it, but that would just expose him as a tool. And he can resign and become Italy’s new president right after. And it’s not just Draghi:

The Swiss Just Made Japan’s Job Harder

Haruhiko Kuroda’s monetary “bazooka” just got outgunned by the Swiss. Since April 2013, Japan’s central banker has been pumping trillions of dollars into the economy in an attempt to generate 2% inflation. But in a mature, aging economy like Japan’s, the effort is 95% about confidence. In order to “drastically convert the deflationary mindset,” as Kuroda puts it, the Bank of Japan must transform sentiment among households and businesses. Kuroda’s massive bond purchases mean little if the Japanese don’t trust that better days lay ahead. The Swiss National Bank’s move to abandon the franc’s cap against the euro may have blown a hole in Kuroda’s strategy.

By reneging on a promise made time and time again that he wouldn’t ditch the policy, SNB President Thomas Jordan “has undermined the credibility of central banks,” says Simon Grose-Hodge of LGT. Now, at central banks around the globe, he adds, “the unthinkable is entirely possible. You can’t rule anything out.” Even if the BOJ issues another blast of quantitative-easing after its two-day policy meeting next week, the question is how effective the move would be. Kuroda’s Oct. 31 shock-and-awe stimulus announcement worked for a time by bolstering perceptions that steady inflation was within reach. But this time, with even Economy Minister Akira Amari admitting “it will probably be difficult” for the BOJ to succeed, markets are likely to be more skeptical of the bank’s staying power.

Read More at TheAutomatiEarth SNB Breaks Pledge