Swiss Franc emerges as safe haven king amid Israel-Hamas conflict

Amid the escalating Israel-Hamas conflict and a wave of disappointing financial reports from corporate giants, investors have been seeking safety in the Swiss franc. The Swiss currency has recently soared to its highest level against the euro since 2015, standing tall as its customary rivals lose their appeal.

Global stock markets have taken a hit, with a 1.6% decline in global shares this week and a 2% loss on Wall Street over two sessions. This has driven investors towards safe haven assets, raising questions about where to find shelter in these turbulent times.

As risk aversion grows and conventional safe havens like bonds face pressure due to high U.S. rate expectations, only the Swiss franc and gold appear to remain as viable options, Ielpo stated.

On Friday, the euro fell to 0.9419 Swiss francs, marking its lowest level since the Swiss National Bank abandoned the peg to the euro in January 2015, reflecting a 2.4% depreciation against the Swiss currency this month. The dollar has also weakened about 1% against the franc this week, putting it on track for its most substantial weekly drop since July.

In contrast, the U.S. dollar has been soaring to its highest level against the Japanese yen in nearly a year, while 10-year Treasury yields have touched 5%, diverting funds away from the low-yielding yen. Traders are also perceiving a higher risk of currency intervention by Japanese authorities, resulting in greater volatility than any Swiss action.

The Swiss franc has rallied over 3% against the yen this month, making it a preferred choice for investors looking for safe alternatives.

Since the Hamas attacks on Israel in early October, the Swiss franc, often referred to as the Swissie, has risen approximately 2% against the U.S. dollar. In contrast, the dollar index, measuring its value against a basket of currencies, has remained relatively stable.

Substantial currency fluctuations may attract the attention of the Swiss National Bank (SNB), given the increasing frequency of daily swings. For example, the euro experienced its most significant daily drop since November 2022 on October 13, falling 0.89% against the franc.

The Swiss National Bank declined to comment on Friday about the currency’s value or the possibility of interventions. Since late 2022, the SNB has been buying francs to support its value, thereby reducing the inflationary impact of rising costs related to commodity imports.

Some analysts believe that the SNB, known for its unpredictability since it roiled currency markets in 2015, might consider abandoning currency support if exporters start to voice concerns more loudly.