Most Swiss Stocks Advance; Swatch, Richemont Pace Gains

Most Swiss stocks climbed as investors awaited a U.S. report that may show sales of new houses in the world’s largest economy increased in March.

Swatch Group AG (UHR), the world’s biggest watchmaker, and Cie. Financiere Richemont SA, the owner of the Cartier brand, added at least 2 percent as Swiss watch exports increased last month. Novartis AG (NOVN) declined after first-quarter profit dropped more than estimated.

The Swiss Market Index (SMI) added 0.1 percent to 6,121.68 at 12:08 a.m. in Zurich. Fifteen stocks listed on the gauge advanced, while four declined. The gauge has climbed 3.1 percent so far this year. The broader Swiss Performance Index also increased 0.1 percent today.

Swiss stocks tumbled the most since November yesterday as manufacturing in the euro area and China shrank, the Dutch Cabinet offered to resign and Socialist candidate Francois Hollande gained an edge in French elections. The combined volume of shares that changed hands on SMI-listed companies was 14 percent less than the average of the last 30 days, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

A report at 10 a.m. Washington time may show that sales of new houses probably increased in March for the first time in three months. Purchases rose to a 318,000 annual rate, up 1.6 percent from 313,000 in February, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of 77 economists.

Another report may show that the Conference Board’s measure of consumer confidence decreased to 69.7 in April from 70.2 the prior month, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed. The measure reached a one-year high of 71.6 in February.

Swiss Exports

The nation’s exports fell in March, adding to signs the strong Swiss franc is hampering demand for its products abroad. Foreign sales, adjusted for inflation and seasonal swings, declined 2.5 percent from February, when they gained a revised 12 percent, the Federal Customs Office in Bern said today.

Swatch and Richemont added 2 percent to 410.40 francs and 2.5 percent to 55.40 francs, respectively, as Swiss watch exports increased 15 percent in March compared with the same month last year.

Austriamicrosystems AG (AMS) rallied 8.6 percent to 67.35 francs, its highest price in three weeks, after the chipmaker raised its sales forecast a second time this year. The company now expects 2012 sales to increase more than 30 percent.

Novartis declined 1.3 percent to 50.25 francs for the worst performance in the SMI. The drugmaker said first-quarter profit dropped 8 percent on generic competition and manufacturing glitches at a consumer-health products factory in Nebraska.

Net income excluding some costs fell to $3.09 billion, or $1.27 a share, from $3.4 billion, or $1.41 a share, a year earlier, the Basel, Switzerland-based company said. Analysts predicted profit of $1.28 a share, the average of 10 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

To contact the reporter on this story: Corinne Gretler in Zurich at cgretler1@bloomberg.net

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

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