SNB's forex reserves down slightly in January

ZURICH Thu Feb 7, 2013 3:04am EST

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ZURICH Feb 7 (Reuters) - The Swiss National Bank's foreign exchange reserves fell for the fourth consecutive month in January, data showed on Thursday, as the franc pulled away from the 1.20 per euro limit the central bank imposed in September 2011.

The SNB held 427.049 billion Swiss francs in foreign currency at the end of January, compared with a revised 427.196 billion for December, preliminary data calculated according to the standards of the International Monetary Fund showed.

With sentiment in the euro zone improving gradually, the franc has slipped bellow the 1.20-1.22 francs per euro range in which it traded for most of 2012, easing pressure on the SNB to step in and defend the 1.20 limit by buying euros.

The SNB's reserve data is closely watched by investors for signs of how much the bank is spending to defend the 1.20 limit. At times, the SNB had to intervene with huge sums to protect the limit as investors worried about sovereign debts in Europe bid up the safe haven franc. (Reporting by Emma Thomasson)