Swiss Stocks Fall for Fourth Day; Baloise Shares Retreat

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Swiss stocks declined for a fourth day, their longest streak of losses this month, after reports showed that manufacturing contracted in China and the euro area.

Baloise Holding AG, Switzerland’s third-largest insurer, tumbled the most since April 2010 after posting 2011 profit that missed analysts’ estimates. Transocean Ltd., the world’s largest operator of offshore drilling rigs, lost 2.9 percent as its executives were charged with environmental crimes. Meyer Burger Technology AG, the biggest maker of solar-panel manufacturing equipment, slid 4.7 percent as full-year profit dropped.

The SMI slipped 0.6 percent to 6,249.56 at the close in Zurich. The gauge has still advanced 5.3 percent this year as the European Central Bank disbursed more than 1 trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) to the region’s lenders and U.S. economic reports beat estimates. The broader Swiss Performance Index decreased 0.8 percent today.

“The market is looking for evidence of growth,” said Manish Singh, the London-based head of investment at Crossbridge Capital, which has more than $2 billion under management. “The purchasing managers’ index numbers put the spotlight back on growth, and Europe’s austerity measures are biting into it. Fiscal response from governments is needed and not just monetary response from central banks.”

The number of shares changing hands on the SMI today was 11 percent lower than the 30-day average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

German, French Manufacturing

A purchasing manager’s index for Germany’s manufacturing industry dropped to 48.1 in March from 50.2 in February. That missed the median economist forecast for an increase to 51. In France, a manufacturing PMI unexpectedly fell to 47.6 from 50.

“The purchasing managers’ indices are below expectations,” Ulrich Wortberg, an analyst at Helaba Landesbank Hessen-Thueringen in Frankfurt, wrote in an e-mail. “It’s sad that the indices of the manufacturing sector slipped into the contraction area in both Germany and France. The disappointing PMIs have contributed to a rise in risk aversion.”

Euro-area manufacturing output dropped more than forecast, falling to 47.7 in March from 49 in February.

A Chinese report indicated that manufacturing in the country will contract by the most since November. The preliminary 48.1 reading in the purchasing managers’ index from HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics today compared with a final figure of 49.6 in February. A result below 50 means that the industry contracted.

U.S. Jobless Claims

A U.S. Labor Department report today showed that claims for jobless benefits dropped to 348,000 last week, the lowest number in four years. The median forecast of 46 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a drop to 350,000.

Baloise tumbled 6.6 percent to 71.05 Swiss francs after reporting full-year profit that fell 86 percent to 60.8 million francs ($66.5 million) on investment losses and a writedown on Greek sovereign debt. That missed the 75.2 million-franc average estimate of 12 analysts in a Bloomberg survey.

Stefan Schuermann, an analyst at Vontobel Holding AG, cut the stock to hold from buy.

Transocean fell 2.9 percent to 50.80 francs. Seventeen Transocean and Chevron Corp. executives were charged with environmental crimes for an oil leak off the coast of Brazil. Prosecutors asked each company to pay 10 million reais ($5.5 million) and sought 1 million reais from each executive.

Meyer Burger Drops

Meyer Burger slid 4.7 percent to 14.25 francs, its lowest price in three months. The company posted full-year profit that dropped to 35.8 million francs from 97.9 million francs a year earlier. The company also said that the “challenging market environment” will continue in 2012.

Holcim Ltd. and Geberit AG declined 2.1 percent to 60.25 francs and 1.9 percent to 187.80 francs, respectively. A gauge of European construction companies posted the third-worst performance of the 19 industry groups in the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, falling 1.9 percent.

Huber & Suhner AG, the world’s biggest maker of connection cables, tumbled 9.4 percent to 44.20 francs. The company said it will propose a dividend of 95 centimes per share at its next annual general meeting, down from 1.50 francs the previous year.

Addex Pharmaceuticals Ltd. soared 84 percent to 11.90 francs for the largest rally since its initial public offering in May 2007. The drugmaker said its experimental treatment for Parkinson’s disease reduced symptoms and proved itself safe in a mid-stage study.

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