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Hints of FX intervention as central banks debate Brexit response

Section: Daily Dispatches

By Patrick Graham and Anirban Nag
Thursday, June 16, 2016

LONDON -- Warnings from officials in Japan and Switzerland on Thursday left financial markets wondering about what central banks are planning behind the scenes if Britain votes to leave the European Union next week.

It is five years since major monetary authorities waded in to currency markets in a concerted push to quell gains for the yen after a shattering earthquake in Japan.

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Such coordinated action in the era of floating exchange rates is rare, and central banks have so far restricted themselves to promises to provide any funding banks might need in the event of a stormy aftermath to next Thursday's referendum.

Officials told Reuters earlier this week the European Central Bank would pledge to backstop markets in tandem with the Bank of England after a vote to leave.

But a raft of official policy statements following four major central bank meetings this week -- and amid evidence that momentum within the British electorate is shifting towards the Brexit camp -- offered hints that policymakers are considering whether they will need to do more.

"Sharp fluctuations could occur in the FX market, with the pound depreciating massively amid low liquidity. This could prompt the central banks of the developed countries to conduct joint FX market interventions," said Antje Praefcke, a currency strategist at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

The Swiss National Bank said outright it would be active on the franc and would take steps to counter any Brexit fallout. Chairman Thomas Jordan added central banks were holding intense exchanges on market developments. ...

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