The iShares MSCI Switzerland Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EWL), the largest U.S.-listed Switzerland ETF, is down 1.1% since Jan. 15, the day the Swiss National Bank (SNB) shocked global markets by announcing it will scuttle the franc’s euro peg.
That decline could be a harbinger of more weakness to come for Swiss stock, which are seen as vulnerable in a rising franc environment.
“Prior to the SNB’s unexpectedly resolute move, the Swiss Market Index (SMI) had been outstripping all its global rivals irrespective of the reserve currency in which its return is denominated. Curiously, though, Swiss shares have sold off sharply since the mid-month decision to abandon the CHF1.20/EUR quasi-peg. In fact, since then, the SMI has performed the worst worldwide when expressed in CHF and EUR terms and ranked second from last on a US dollar (USD) basis as investors, in pursuit of financial security, forsake Swiss equities in favor of debt issuance of the Swiss Confederation,” said S&P Capital IQ in a recent research note.
Investors are not betting on much more upside for the franc against the U.S. dollar if outflows from the CurrencyShares Swiss Franc Trust (NYSEArca: FXF) are an indication. FXF has lost $11 million in assets since Jan. 15, but since then, EWL has added nearly $3.8 million in new assets. Investors have pulled $2 million from the First Trust Switzerland AlphaDEX Fund (NYSEArca: FSZ) over that period. [Swissie Surge Felt Across ETF Realm]
“Switzerland’s domestic economy will probably pay a hefty toll in spite of compensatory SNB action on the money market front in having adopted a 50 bp reduction in the rate of its overriding three-month CHF Libor policy target to -0.75 percent, the midpoint of its -0.25 to -1.25 range. The perplexing challenge facing the authorities in Bern, in the opinion of Global Markets Intelligence (GMI), is rebalancing the country’s excessive exposure to exports, which is roughly 66 percent of nominal GDP, in the direction of private consumption,” said S&P Capital IQ.
Another issue could be looming for Switzerland: The strong franc could turn one of Europe’s most reliable dividend growth markets into a bastion of dividend cutters.
“Companies such as big pharma’s Novartis and Roche as well as Adecco, the world’s biggest staffing firm by sales, generate more than 95 percent of their sales from abroad, according to Morgan Stanley,” reports Reuters.
Along with Credit Suisse (NYSE: CS), which has also been highlighted as a possible Swiss dividend cutter, those companies combine for a third of EWL’s weight. [Swiss Dividends Could be Pinched by Franc Spike]