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[ZURICH] Switzerland's foreign exchange reserves hit a new high in February, but analysts were divided on whether this was due to currency fluctuations or whether the central bank was intervening in the market even after ditching a cap on the Swiss franc.
The Swiss National Bank (SNB) said it held 509.250 billion Swiss francs (US$523.17 billion) in foreign currency at the end of February, compared with a revised 498.463 billion francs held the previous month.
February's reserves are the first full month to show changes in the Swiss National Bank's currency holdings since it shocked financial markets in mid-January by dropping a more than three-year-old Swiss franc cap against the euro.
An economist for Swiss online brokerage Swissquote said the near 11 billion Swiss franc rise in reserves raised the suspicion that the central bank was still intervening.
However, others said the rise was largely due to a slight depreciation of the franc in February, which made the bank's foreign currency holdings more valuable. "That suggests that the move on the franc in February has been driven by market forces rather than the central bank and also that the SNB is comfortable with current levels," said Michael Sneyd, a strategist at BNP Paribas in London.
The SNB doesn't spell out the make-up of its foreign currency holdings and its pool of forex reserves are measured in Swiss francs.
The SNB was not immediately available to comment on whether it had made foreign exchange purchases last month or had intervened to keep the franc down.
Since the end of January the franc has fallen around 2 per cent against the euro but the Swiss currency is still more than 10 per cent stronger than before the cap removal.