More than three years of stability between the euro and the Swiss franc just ended suddenly, as the Swiss central bank abandoned attempts to cap the currency’s value.
The bank previously aimed to let the franc rise no higher than 1.20 to the euro (about €0.83 to each franc). As soon as the change was announced, it smashed immediately higher, breaking through the previous “ceiling.” It broke through a 1:1 exchange rate, surging above €1.10.
Here’s the euro plunging against the franc, down by nearly 28% as the news broke, an astonishing move for a currency:
Moves like these occasionally come from countries such as Russia when a commodity they produce tanks, but they’re almost unheard of in the major advanced economies. As of 11:40 a.m. GMT (5:20 a.m. ET), the euro is down by more like 14.5%, to just 1.026 Swiss francs.
Switzerland brought the currency cap in 2011 to stop the constant appreciation of its currency. The franc is seen as a particularly strong and safe currency, and it aw huge inflows during the worst years of the euro crisis.
This is likely to have a big impact on a lot of Europeans. For example, if your mortgage is denominated in Swiss francs but you get paid in euros, it just got a lot more expensive. On the other hand, if you’re getting paid in Swiss francs, that holiday to Italy suddenly looks a lot cheaper.
It looks as if the exchange rate is now stabilizing a bit, after some extreme volatility:
According tothe Swiss National Bank’s statement, it was just becoming too difficult to justify the currency ceiling:
The euro has depreciated considerably against the US dollar and this, in turn, has caused the Swiss franc to weaken against the US dollar.
In these circumstances, the SNB concluded that enforcing and maintaining the minimum exchange rate for the Swiss franc against the euro is no longer justified.
The central bank cut also interest rates even further into negative territory Thursday morning, down to -0.75% from -0.25%.