September 30, 2022

DealBook: Switzerland to Require Banks to Hold More Capital to Offset Mortgages

LONDON – Switzerland said on Wednesday that Swiss banks would be required to hold additional capital for residential mortgages amid concerns that the country’s booming property market was overheating.

The country, which already has more stringent capital rules for its banks than other European nations, said lenders would be required to hold an additional 1 percent of risk-weighted assets to make the financial system more stable in light of an “excessive rise in prices in the real estate market and exorbitant mortgage debt.” Banks have until Sept. 30 to comply.

Property values in Switzerland have been rising as investors spooked by the uncertainties of the economic crisis in the euro zone sought a more stable places for their money.

Greater demand for Swiss homes has pushed up prices at a time of low interest rates and led many buyers to take on larger mortgages. The Swiss central bank has been unable to cool the market by increasing borrowing rates because of an overvalued Swiss currency.

An index created by the Swiss bank UBS measuring the likelihood of a Swiss property bubble was “clearly in the risk zone,” the bank wrote in a note to investors this month.

In the final three months of 2012, house prices soared to six times the annual average Swiss household income compared with about four times in 2000, according to the bank. It called the ever-rising demand for properties not intended for personal use “remarkable.”

The government said it was following a recommendation by the Swiss National Bank to increase the capital buffers. “The sustained growth in mortgage debt and rise in real estate prices of residential properties has led to imbalances which pose a significant risk to the stability of the banking sector and to that of the economy,” the government said in a statement.

Mortgage debt has been growing faster than the economy, and mortgage volume in relation to income has reached “risky” levels, the government said, adding that residential property prices had risen more than what was justified by fundamental factors.

UBS and Credit Suisse, Switzerland’s biggest banks, both said this month that they were working on increasing their capital buffers and that the suggested increase would not change their plans.

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Bucks Blog: Wednesday Reading: A Scientific Look at the Dangers of High Heels

January 25

Wednesday Reading: A Scientific Look at the Dangers of High Heels

A scientific look at the dangers of wearing high heels, the White House plans to propose a way to ease mortgage debt, Facebook will begin the rollout of Timeline, and other consumer-focused news from The New York Times.

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