Most banks around the world couldn’t survive losing $50 billion in six months. But most banks don’t print their own money.
The Swiss National Bank, Switzerland’s central bank, announced on Friday that it suffered a first-half loss of 50.1 billion Swiss francs ($52 billion), the vast majority of which was from the decline in value of its holdings of euros.
The reason the bank held so many euros was that for several years, the bank maintained a peg against the euro, wherein it would not allow the value of the franc to rise above 1.2 euros, to prevent an expensive Swiss Franc from hurting the Swiss economy.
When the central bank lifted the peg earlier this year, it sent the value of the Franc soaring, and the value of its euro holdings falling. The central bank also lost money on its gold reserves, as the shiny metal has taken it on the chin of late.
Luckily for the Swiss National Bank, it can’t actually become insolvent, since it can simply print francs to cover any losses it suffers. The announcement caused the value of the Swiss Franc to tumble, falling as much as 0.4% against the euro on Friday.