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Swiss Stocks Are Little Changed; Julius Baer Rises as Loeb Falls in Zurich

Stocks in Switzerland were little changed as U.S. retailers’ holiday sales rose the most in five years, while consumer confidence figures suggested the recovery in the U.S. and Swiss economies might falter.

Julius Baer Group Ltd., the 120-year-old private bank, gained 1.5 percent and VZ Holding AG, the financial adviser, surged 8.6 percent.

The Swiss Market Index of the biggest and most actively traded companies rose less than 0.1 percent to 6,569.06 at the 5:30 p.m. close of trading in Zurich. The gauge has increased 0.4 percent this year, trailing the 10 percent increase in the benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 Index. The broader Swiss Performance Index also added less than 0.1 percent today to 5,890.85.

“It will be quite random this week with low volumes and not many people around,” said Thomas Stucki, chief investment officer at Hyposwiss Privatbank AG in Zurich. “We will be quite strong in the first week or two weeks of January then the rally will lose steam quickly.”

U.S. retailers’ 2010 holiday sales jumped 5.5 percent for the best performance in five years as shoppers snapped up clothing and jewelry at Macy’s Inc., Tiffany & Co. and other stores.

Retail sales, excluding autos, rose to $584 billion from Nov. 5 through Dec. 24, said MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse, which measures retail sales by all payment forms. That compared with a 4.1 percent gain a year earlier.

A separate report showed confidence among U.S. consumers fell in December, a sign that the biggest part of the economy will struggle to sustain momentum into 2011, according to a New York-based research group. The Conference Board’s confidence index decreased to 52.5, lower than the most pessimistic forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News and down from a revised 54.3 in November.

Julius Baer, VZ

Julius Baer gained 1.5 percent to 44.45 Swiss francs, erasing yesterday’s loss. The stock has increased 22 percent this year as the bank boosted client assets under management.

VZ Holding surged 8.6 percent to 119.8 francs, the biggest gain since August 2009.

Burckhardt Compression Holding AG added 1 percent to 262.50 francs, the highest price since 2008, after Vontobel AG lifted its price estimate for the stock 15 percent to 250 francs.

“Going forward, we expect orders from China/India and Middle East to continue to recover while the U.S. market is set to remain dull,” wrote Fabian Haecki, analyst at Vontobel, in a note to clients.

Loeb Holding AG, the retailer founded by four brothers, fell 2 percent to 179.8 francs after a Swiss consumer gauge also retreated in November. UBS AG’s index of consumption, which aims to predict developments about three months ahead, decreased to 1.63 from a revised 1.71 in October, the Zurich-based bank said today in an e-mailed statement. The indicator, based on new car sales, retail sales and other consumer activity is still above its long-term average of 1.50 points, UBS said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Giles Broom in Zurich at gbroom@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Merritt at dmerritt1@bloomberg.net.

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