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Europe: Swiss selloff pushes European indexes lower after franc rally

Friday, January 16, 2015 - 16:30
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A fresh slide in Swiss stocks pushed pan-European indexes lower on Friday as investors further marked down Swiss franc-denominated equities a day after the shock lifting of the central bank’s cap on the currency.

[LONDON] A fresh slide in Swiss stocks pushed pan-European indexes lower on Friday as investors further marked down Swiss franc-denominated equities a day after the shock lifting of the central bank’s cap on the currency.

Watchmaker Swatch and private bank Julius Baer led a 5.3 per cent slide in Zurich’s SMI index as analysts and traders warned of a hit to Swiss exporters’ and investors’ returns after the franc rallied sharply against the euro and the dollar on Thursday. “The likelihood is that the Swiss economy will have to be completely recalculated,” Lorne Baring, managing director of Geneva-based wealth management firm B Capital said. “Tourism and exporters will feel this... and Swiss investors with euro zone and US holdings will feel betrayed by the Swiss National Bank.”

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was down 0.7 per cent at 1,384.09 points at 0935 GMT.

The index was still up 2.6 per cent for the week, largely thanks to a surge on Thursday.

Investors took the ditching of the franc’s cap against the euro as a sign the Swiss National Bank was anticipating the imminent launch of a significant European Central Bank bond purchase programme, effectively a euro-printing exercise that is seen as positive for stocks.

Some traders felt the market had by now fully priced in the introduction of a quantitative easing programme by the ECB next Thursday, and lingering uncertainty about its size and composition made investors reluctant to buy more ahead of the announcement. “QE (speculation) has been around for so long that I think it will be a ‘buy the rumour and sell the announcement’,” Markus Huber, a trader at Peregrine & Black, said.

Greek shares lagged, down 1.8 per cent, after two of the country’s lenders asked to tap the central bank’s Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) facility, showing financial stress was building up ahead of the country’s general election next weekend, which anti-bailout party Syriza is tipped to win.

 

REUTERS