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Swiss Stocks Slide Most This Year as Oil Surges on Libya Unrest

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Feb. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Swiss stocks retreated the most this year as the opposition to Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi increased its hold on the eastern part of the country, sending oil to its highest price in almost 30 months.

Transocean Ltd. dropped 4.5 percent as the Geneva-based oil rig owner reported its biggest quarterly loss in eight years. Swatch Group AG sank 2.5 percent, its fourth straight day of declines.

The Swiss Market Index of the biggest and most actively traded companies lost 1.6 percent to 6,515.97 at the 5:30 p.m. close in Zurich. The gauge has still risen 1.2 percent this year as investors speculated that the global economy will continue to recover. The broader Swiss Performance Index fell 1 percent to 5,865.2 today.

“Up until now the reaction to the situation in the Middle East has been broadly positive,” said Will Hedden, sales trader at IG Index in London. “Worries that unrest could spread to the oil-producing giant of Saudi Arabia have now hit home.”

Opponents of Muammar Qaddafi consolidated control over cities in the oil-rich east while he clamped down on Tripoli, using tanks to block highways and security forces to attack residents, witnesses said. The fighting is the most violent yet seen in six weeks of popular uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa, which have already unseated longtime rulers in Tunisia and Egypt.

Crude in New York surged to the highest level in 29 months as Libya’s uprising reduced supplies from Africa’s third-biggest oil-producing country. Oil for April delivery reached $103.41, the highest intraday price since Sept. 29, 2008 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Transocean, Weatherford

Transocean fell 4.5 percent to 74 Swiss francs after posting a fourth-quarter loss as an oversupply of rigs used to drill for natural gas in coastal waters dragged down rental rates. The company reported a loss of $799 million, or $2.51 a share, in the final three months of 2010, compared with net income of $723 million, or $2.24, a year earlier.

Transocean has 138 offshore drilling rigs including four rigs off the coast of Saudi Arabia, 10 rigs in Egypt’s territorial waters and two rigs close to Bahrain, according to the company’s website.

Weatherford International Ltd., another oil-services company based in Geneva dropped 0.9 percent to 22.25 francs.

Swatch slid 2.5 percent to 387.30 francs and Cie. Financiere Richemont, the world’s biggest jewelry maker, lost 3 percent to 52.30 francs.

Micronas Semiconductor Holding AG plunged 21 percent to 11 francs, its largest decline since 1998, after the Zurich-based company reported 2010 sales of 190.3 million francs ($205.5 million), compared with 241.2 million francs a year earlier.

Kudelski SA tumbled 4.2 percent to 18.40 francs, the lowest price since July 2009, even as the maker of digital television applications said net income gained 31 percent to 66.6 million francs.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Merritt at dmerritt1@bloomberg.net.

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