The Swiss Franc begins the day 18% stronger against the single currency than it was this time yesterday. Thursday was a wild day on the currency markets as the Swiss National Bank suddenly and unexpectedly decided to scrap a ceiling of 1.20 to the euro that it had been defending since 2011.
At one point the Swiss Franc, which is seen as a safe haven and is often talked of as being the "new Deutsche mark" had gained 39% against the single currency. Intraday movements on that scale involving normally stable currencies such as the Swiss franc are almost unheard of.
The move is likely to hit Swiss exporters including several big names in the pharma and manufacturing sector. Over half of Swiss exports are bought in the euro zone. The Swiss federation of trade unions said the currency appreciation would put "massive" pressure on jobs and wages. Broker Citigroup estimated, for example, that a 12% to 13% rise of the Swiss Franc against the euro would wipe 10% off earnings at the watchmaker Swatch. Its shares fell 16% yesterday.
Paul Sommerville, of Sommerville Advisory Markets, says the Swiss National Bank made the move because it believes ECB chief Mario Draghi will launch a massive "shock and awe" QE programme next week. From an Irish perspective, Mr Sommerville says the moves are not all bad, adding that the euro has been falling consistently against the dollar and the UK pound. A US tourist coming to Ireland now will see a 17% improvement on what he can get for his dollar compared to last summer, while UK tourists are now about 10% better off. "But if you are a Russian oligarch with mortgage properties in Switzerland, you are not having a good month," he states.
Marc Westlake, head of Wealth Management at Goldcore, says what happened yesterday is now well priced into the markets and it is too late to be concerned about it this morning. He says there is no point in "reacting" and if you are an investor, it is too late to think about these things in any great sense. Proper investing structures should be based around having a long term plan that is focused on an individual and their family. "If you focus on the markets you are going to constantly feel sick with stress and worry," he advises. There is nothing a person can do about these sort of short term events and they should be put into some sort of context, he adds.
Mr Westlake says over the last 15 years investors were constantly advised about how they could protect themselves from euro weakness. They were advised to put the money into sterling or the Canadian or Australian dollar - because they are resource rich countries - or the Norwegian Krone because of its oil reserves. But he says research shows that if investors had made those moves, they would have actually lost money and would have been better off staying with the euro. Despite all the low interest rates around at the moment, just putting your money on deposit with the ECB would have made a better return than investing in the Swiss franc for the last 15 years. Investors should think about what is the likely policy response of central bankers or politicians as a result of these frequent financial crises and typically central bankers "don't do nothing", he states.
MORNING BRIEFS - HMV and Xtra-vision, both now under the ownership of troubled company turnaround specialist Hilco, reported combined sales of just over €95m between them, an increase of 15% on 2013 levels according to a statement from the company. The statement does not disclose profit figures but notes a significant rise in CD sales last year, driven in part by a series of new shop openings. It says overall CD sales in Ireland were 14% higher last year. HMV and Xtra-vision reported a 51% increase in like-for-like sales. Vinyl's resurgence continues, HMV Ireland sold 50,000 vinyl units last year up 400% on 2013.
*** The Government should guard against the risk of "spending money that has not come yet" says European Central Bank executive board member Benoit Coueré. In an interview with the Irish Times, the ECB policymaker said Ireland had the potential to be the fastest-growing euro zone economy in 2015. But he cautioned against the risk of this return to growth encouraging over-optimism and said the government should "err on the side of caution".