UBS AG (UBSN) and Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN), Switzerland’s largest lenders, gained more than 1.5 percent. Clariant AG (CLN), the world’s biggest maker of printing-ink chemicals, jumped 3.7 percent. Transocean Ltd. (RIG), the largest operator of offshore drilling rigs, fell 5.1 percent after it said it won’t propose a dividend at its annual shareholder meeting.
The Swiss Market Index (SMI), a measure of Switzerland’s biggest and most actively traded companies, added 0.1 percent to 6,242.99 at the close in Zurich, having earlier advanced as much as 0.5 percent. More than three stocks climbed for every two that dropped. The gauge rose to a seven-month high last week and has rallied 5.2 percent this year as the European Central Bank lent more money to banks and U.S. economic reports topped forecasts. The broader Swiss Performance Index rose 0.2 percent.
“A decision for a second rescue package would have a positive impact on stock markets,” said Kai Fachinger, who manages about $750 million at SAM Sustainable Management AG in Zurich. “However, investors don’t fear a Greek default as much as last year as there’s an improved capital situation for banks. China provides for a positive sentiment, as the prospect of a hard landing is very unlikely for now.”
Finance Ministers Meeting
Euro-area finance ministers met in Brussels at 3:30 p.m. to seek an agreement on a 130 billion-euro ($172 billion) bailout for Greece. Talks on Greece’s second bailout in two years aimed to reconcile demands made on the country’s politicians, a debt swap among private creditors, the role of the European Central Bank and concern that austerity will fail.
If ministers fail to approve the bailout package at today’s meeting, the decision may be delayed until the European Union summit on March 1.
China cut the amount of cash that banks must set aside as reserves for the second time in three months to spur lending. Reserve requirements will fall by half a percentage point from Feb. 24, the People’s Bank of China said on Feb. 18.
UBS rose 1.6 percent to 13.30 Swiss francs, while Credit Suisse added 2.9 percent to 25.27 francs. A gauge of European banks contributed the most to the benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 Index (SXXP)’s advance. Julius Baer Group Ltd. (BAER), the 121-year-old wealth manager, increased 0.8 percent to 37.60 francs.
Clariant jumped 3.7 percent to 13.35 francs, its highest price since July. Chief Executive Officer Hariolf Kottmann said that one of the company’s priorities is reducing debt, according to a report in Finanz & Wirtschaft. Clariant doesn’t have to sell any part of the business to cope with its debt levels, Kottmann said.
Separately, Citigroup Inc. raised the stock to “buy” from “neutral.”
Transocean declined 5.1 percent to 43.57 francs, its biggest drop in two months. The company said it will take a charge on a “substantial” portion of the goodwill associated with its contract drilling services business. The unit’s total goodwill was about $8 billion, the company said.
Swatch Group AG (UHR) advanced 1.2 percent to 413.20 francs and Cie. Financiere Richemont SA gained 1.3 percent to 55.20 francs. Kuehne & Nagel International AG, the world’s biggest sea-freight forwarder, added 1.9 percent to 124.80 francs.
Zurich Financial Services AG retreated 1.3 percent to 229.50 francs after Ralph Hebgen, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Ltd., cut the company’s shares to “market perform” from “outperform.”
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