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Swiss Benchmark Stocks Retreat as Credit Suisse, Kardex Decline

Swiss stocks fell for the second time in three days as the European Union statistics office reported inflation unexpectedly accelerated.

Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN), Switzerland’s second-biggest bank, fell 1.2 percent while the automated storage systems supplier Kardex AG (KARN) tumbled 9.4 percent after reporting a loss. Swiss Reinsurance Co., the world’s No. 2 reinsurer, rose 2.3 percent.

The Swiss Market Index (SMI) of the biggest and most actively traded companies dropped 0.6 percent to 6,357.55 in Zurich. The gauge has risen 5.6 percent the past 11 trading days as investors speculated the Japan earthquake and North Africa and Middle East unrest would not derail the economic recovery. It still lost 1.2 percent over the first quarter of the year. The broader Swiss Performance Index declined 0.5 percent today.

European inflation unexpectedly accelerated to the fastest in more than two years in March as European Central Bank policy makers prepared to raise interest rates to fight increasing price pressures.

Inflation in the 17-nation euro region quickened to 2.6 percent from 2.4 percent in February, the EU’s statistics office in Luxembourg said today in an initial estimate. That’s the fastest since October 2008 and exceeds the ECB’s 2 percent limit for a fourth month.

Oil, Inflation

Crude-oil prices have surged 15 percent this year as output from Libya slumped. An armed conflict between Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s troops and rebel forces has forced companies including Total SA and ConocoPhillips to suspend operations and evacuate staff. Crude was trading at $105.30 a barrel today.

Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, a sign the labor market is firming heading into the second quarter. Jobless claims fell by 6,000 to 388,000 in the week ended March 26, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington.

The U.S. publishes payrolls data tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. local time.

“Good news on the jobs market could help sentiment as consumer confidence has been under pressure thanks to rising oil prices,” said Fabrizio Quirighetti, an analyst at Banque Syz & Co. SA in Geneva. “Investors will mainly focus on Friday’s employment report.”

Credit Suisse fell 1.2 percent to 39.03 Swiss francs, the second-biggest decline in the SMI after UBS AG (UBSN) slid 1.7 percent.

Kardex slid 2.55 francs to 24.60 francs, the most since July, after the Zurich-based company reported a full-year loss of 9.8 million euros ($13.9 million) compared with a loss of 7.5 million euros estimated by analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Sonova Holding AG (SOON) lost 0.7 percent to 81.85 francs as former Chairman Andy Rihs told Le Temps he did nothing illegal by selling 300,000 shares in the week before the hearing-aid maker lowered its profit forecast on March 16. The stock declined 32 percent in the first quarter of the year.

Swiss Re Advances

Swiss Re rose 1.2 francs to 52.55 francs. Reinsurers are closer to ending a two-year decline in global rates after this year’s disasters including the Japanese quake, according to Willis Group Holdings Plc. The catastrophes in the first quarter “have significantly accelerated the likelihood of a market-wide turn should reinsurers be tested again this year,” said Willis Re, the London-based brokerage’s reinsurance unit.

Gurit Holding AG (GUR) rose 4.5 percent to 653 francs. The composite-materials maker said it bought balsa producer Balseurop for about 20 million euros.

“The acquisition enables the company to provide a complete product offering in the core material segment,” Alessandro Migliorini, an analyst at Helvea AG, wrote in a note to clients.

Separately, Joern Iffert, an analyst at UBS, raised the bank’s price estimate for Gurit shares.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Rummer at arummer@bloomberg.net.

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