The Gold Report: The beginning of 2015 has been volatile for global currencies, not the least of which was the Swiss National Bank removing its cap on the franc versus the euro. What precipitated that and what does it mean for the Swiss franc versus other currencies going forward?
John Mauldin: The Swiss National Bank had already expanded its balance sheet to 80% of GDP to maintain the link and would have had to buy more euros if the joint currency continued to weaken. It would be similar to the U.S. Federal Reserve having a balance sheet of $13 trillion. As late as the week before the big move, the chairman and vice chairman of the Swiss National Bank announced publicly that the peg was a cornerstone and the bank would continue to maintain it. Once it became clear that some very serious quantitative easing (QE) was coming from the European Central Bank (ECB), everything changed.
Now we see that European bond buying could be on the order of €1.1 trillion, which is a relatively serious amount, and it is open ended with €60 billion a month planned until inflation hits 2%. Given all the deflationary pressures in Europe, that could be quite a long time. Consider that Japan has had massive quantitative easing for decades off and on and its nominal GDP is roughly where it was 25 years ago. The country hasn’t witnessed anything that looks like inflation, so it’s not clear to me that the move by Europe is going to be able to create inflation.
The Swiss National Bank saw this reality and concluded it could be facing another $150 billion in losses and balance sheet expansion. There is only so much pain a central bank can handle. So it walked away from the whole euro mess. And …read more