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Swiss Stocks Rise as China Pledges to Aid Europe; Clariant Jumps

Swiss stocks advanced to a seven- month high, led by Transocean Ltd. (RIG), after China pledged to help resolve the euro area’s debt crisis.

Clariant AG gained 5.7 percent after earnings exceeded projections and the chemical maker said it may sell its less- profitable textile and paper units. Transocean climbed 3 percent after projecting fewer out-of-service days for its fleet of offshore drilling rigs. Swisscom AG (SCMN) dropped 1.9 percent after the nation’s biggest phone company posted its first quarterly loss since 2002.

The Swiss Market Index (SMI), a measure of Switzerland’s biggest and most actively traded companies, rose 0.6 percent to 6,198.34 at the close in Zurich, its highest level since July 7. The gauge fell yesterday after Moody’s Investors Service cut the credit ratings on six of the region’s countries including Italy and Spain. The SMI has rallied 4.4 percent this year. The broader Swiss Performance Index also added 0.6 percent today.

“The Chinese pledge will lift the mood in stock markets,” said Jakup Petur Baerentsen, a chief equity adviser at Nordea Private Bank in Copenhagen, in a note to clients.

China pledged to invest in the European Union’s rescue funds and to maintain its holdings of euro assets.

“China will always adhere to the principle of holding assets of EU sovereign debt,” People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan said. “We would participate in resolving the euro debt crisis.”

Finance Ministers’ Talks

Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said that Europe’s wealthier countries are “playing with fire” by considering expelling the nation from the 17-nation euro currency as talks over a second aid program ran into new obstacles. A decision slated for tonight on aid totaling 130 billion euros ($171 billion) was postponed until at least Feb. 20 and possibly until after a full-time Greek government emerges from elections later in the year.

The leaders of Greece’s two biggest political parties, New Democracy’s Antonis Samaras and Pasok’s George Papandreou, sent written commitments today to the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund to stand by austerity measures.

Swiss investor confidence rose to the highest level in nine months in February, adding to signs that the economy may be stabilizing.

An index of investor and analyst expectations that aims to predict economic developments six months in advance jumped to minus 21.2 this month from minus 50.1 in January, the ZEW Center for European Economic Research (GRZECSSZ) in Mannheim, Germany, and Zurich- based Credit Suisse Group AG said today. That’s the highest level since May.

Empire State Index

In the U.S., the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s general economic index increased to 19.5 this month from 13.5 in January. The index exceeded all forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey of economists. Readings greater than zero signal expansion in the so-called Empire State Index, which covers New York, northern New Jersey, and southern Connecticut

Clariant (CLN) gained 5.7 percent to 13.06 Swiss francs, its highest price since July 28, after fourth-quarter earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization exceeded analysts’ estimates. The company’s Ebitda margin widened to 12.6 percent from 10 percent.

Clariant also said it may sell or find other strategic options for business units generating 1 billion francs ($1.09 billion) in revenue as it moves away from commodity products.

Transocean, Adecco

Transocean, the biggest operator of offshore drilling rigs, rose 3 percent to 45.35 francs after saying its fleet will have 87 out-of-service days in the third quarter of 2012, compared with 362 forecast for the second quarter.

Adecco SA (ADEN), the world’s largest provider of temporary workers, rose 2.5 percent to 47.00 francs to lead gains in the SMI as manufacturing in the New York region expanded in February at the fastest pace since June 2010, a sign that factories are propelling the expansion.

Nobel Biocare Holding AG (NOBN) jumped 4.9 percent to 10.81 francs. Kepler Capital Markets SA started coverage of the stock with a “buy” recommendation.

Swisscom slid 1.9 percent to 360.60 francs after the company posted its first quarterly loss in almost a decade after writing down the value of its Italian fixed-line unit Fastweb SpA. Swisscom reported a fourth-quarter net loss of 835 million francs, its first three-month loss since 2002, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Levring in Copenhagen at plevring1@bloomberg.net

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

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