Credit Suisse AG and UBS AG (UBSN), Switzerland’s biggest lenders, soared more than 3.5 percent as a measure of European banks jumped the most since November. Swatch Group AG (UHR) and Cie. Financiere Richemont SA gained at least 1 percent. Gurit Holding AG (GUR) dropped to the lowest price this year after reporting a decline in first-quarter sales.
The Swiss Market Index (SMI) rallied 1.5 percent to 7,771.37 at the close in Zurich, the biggest advance since March 5. The benchmark gauge has surged 14 percent this year as U.S. lawmakers agreed on a budget compromise and data fueled optimism the world’s biggest economy is recovering. The broader Swiss Performance Index added 1.6 percent today.
“The China imports data was more than double the expected figure and might signal strong domestic demand,” said Alessandro Fezzi, senior market analyst at LGT Bank Schweiz in Zurich. “There’s a good chance that we see a more risk-on environment this week with the start into the earnings season in the U.S. Investors hope that earnings will surpass the rather moderate expectations for the quarter.”
The number of shares changing hands in companies on the SMI was 4.5 percent lower than the average of the past 30 days, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
China’s imports surged 14.1 percent in March, compared with a drop of 15.2 percent in February, according to the customs administration in Beijing. That beat the 6 percent gain forecast by economists in a Bloomberg survey. Exports rose less than anticipated.
In the U.S., several Federal Reserve officials said the central bank should begin tapering its quantitative easing program later this year, minutes of their March meeting showed.
The Federal Open Market Committee members “thought that if the outlook for labor market conditions improved as anticipated, it would probably be appropriate to slow purchases later in the year and to stop them by year-end,” according to the record of the March 19-20 FOMC meeting released today.
Alcoa Inc. unofficially began the U.S. earnings season on April 8, with earnings that topped estimates. Companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index will report a 1.8 percent profit decline for the first quarter, according to analysts’ projections compiled by Bloomberg.
The S&P 500 (SPX) of U.S. equities touched an intraday record of 1,586.39 at 5:55 p.m. Zurich time today.
Credit Suisse rallied 4.7 percent to 26.07 Swiss francs and UBS climbed 3.9 percent to 14.88 francs. A gauge of banking shares was the best performer among the 19 industry groups in the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, rising 3.5 percent.
Bailout loans to Ireland and Portugal should be extended by seven years to aid each country’s return to the market, the nations’ international creditors said. The so-called troika and the European Financial Stability Facility made the recommendation in a joint report before a meeting of European Union finance ministers in Dublin on April 12-13, when further measures to help Ireland and Portugal are to be discussed.
Luxury stocks also gained today. Swatch, the biggest maker of Swiss watches, advanced 2.1 percent to 530.50 francs and Givaudan SA (GIVN), the largest maker of flavorings and fragrances, added 0.9 percent to 1,130 francs. Richemont, the owner of the Cartier brand, increased 1.4 percent to 72.15 francs.
Lonza Group AG, a drug-ingredient maker, advanced 3.7 percent to 60.45 francs. Shareholders at an annual meeting yesterday approved all of the board’s proposals, including a dividend payment of 2.15 francs a share on April 16.
Fortimo Group AG (FOGN) surged 10 percent to 132 francs after the real estate developer said it will buy back shares at 136 francs each as it turns private.
Gurit dropped 2.4 percent to 377.50 francs, the lowest level since Dec. 28, after the Swiss maker of materials for turbine propellers said first-quarter sales fell 37 percent from a year earlier to 60.8 million francs ($65.3 million). Low activity in Asia and a slow recovery in the U.S. hurt sales in wind-energy markets, the company said in a statement late yesterday.
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