July 13, 2015 / 9:55 AM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-Swiss data show SNB efforts to weaken franc

(Recasts, adds economist comment, comment from the SNB)

By Joshua Franklin

ZURICH, July 13 (Reuters) - Switzerland’s central bank stepped into the currency market as the Greek crisis deepened last month but did not have to intervene as intensively as it did in 2012, data published on Monday suggested.

The data showed domestic sight deposits, cash that commercial banks hold with the central bank, rose by around 5 billion Swiss francs ($5.3 billion) last week.

Swiss National Bank (SNB) Chairman Thomas Jordan gave rare public confirmation on June 29 that it had acted to weaken the franc, a traditional safe haven for investors from crises elsewhere.

However, the sight deposit data suggest the SNB’s intervention is more limited than in 2012 when it stepped in to defend a 1.20 franc per euro cap and in early 2015 after abruptly removing it.

The rise in the franc, sparked by the January move to end the currency cap and uncertainty over Greece’s financial future, has been a major concern for Switzerland’s export-reliant economy.

“Clearly, as uncertainty emulating from Brussels/Athens bailout negotiation further drives capital into Switzerland, the SNB needs traders to understand they stand ready to combat Swiss franc appreciation against the euro with direct action,” Peter Rosenstreich, head of market strategy at Swissquote Bank, wrote in a note.

A rise in sight deposits can indicate the central bank has been buying euros to drive down the value of the franc.

There is often a slight time-lag for the data to reflect the SNB’s purchases because they are based on weekly averages and it usually takes two working days to close transactions.

Domestic sight deposits stood at 396.073 billion francs in the week ending July 10, up from 391.134 billion francs the previous week, data showed.

Total sight deposits, which include other deposits on sight in Swiss francs, rose to 460.007 billion francs from 457.865 billion francs in the previous week.

An SNB spokesman declined to comment on the rise.

At 0823 GMT the euro was trading at around 1.04805 Swiss francs.

Despite a breakthrough in debt talks between Greece and Brussels, Credit Suisse economist Maxime Botteron expects pressure on the franc to persist until the market has more confidence in the euro zone economy.

“As long as the sentiment towards the euro zone is not improving substantially, it’s probable that we won’t see the outflows from Switzerland back into the euro zone,” Botteron said.

“From that perspective, a resolution in the Greek talks won’t have a big impact on whether the SNB needs to intervene or not.”

($1 = 0.9468 Swiss francs)

Reporting by Joshua Franklin; Editing by Toby Chopra/Ruth Pitchford

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