In 2001, economic activity declined markedly both in Switzerland and abroad. The events of 11 September intensified the slowdown, which had already become discernible in the previous year.
The National Bank eased monetary policy significantly in the course of 2001: it lowered the target range for the three-month Libor rate in four steps by a total of 1.75 percentage points. The purpose of this easing was to create monetary conditions conducive to an economic upswing, sustained growth and stable employment levels.
For the National Bank, too, the development of the Swiss franc in relation to the euro is a source of concern. A strategy oriented to weakening the external value of the Swiss franc would, however, call for a relaxation of monetary policy to an extent that would not be compatible with price stability.
Better times seem to lie ahead: economic prospects are improving constantly, in Switzerland as well as abroad. Barring any unforeseen monetary turbulences, we may expect the economy to approach its potential growth rate by the end of the year.
If the National Council and the Council of States approve the fundamentals of the National Bank Law, the National Bank will have a modern instrument at its disposal permitting it to fulfil its mandate under optimum conditions. Pursuant to the draft bill, the circle of shareholders will not be limited. The Bank's share capital of Sfr 50 million, half of which is paid up, will be reduced to Sfr 25 million.