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Swiss Stocks Rise on EU Budget Cuts; Swiss Life Advances

Swiss stocks climbed, rebounding from their biggest retreat in 12 weeks yesterday, as Chinese trade data beat forecasts and European Union leaders agreed to the first ever cuts to the bloc’s budget.

Swiss Life Holding AG rallied to the highest price since July 2011 as JPMorgan Chase & Co. recommended buying shares in Switzerland’s largest life insurer. EMS-Chemie Holding AG rose to its highest price since at least 1989 after saying it will pay an extraordinary dividend of 2.50 Swiss francs a share. Emmi AG dropped 2 percent.

The SMI gained 0.8 percent to 7,395.97 at the close in Zurich. The gauge has still slipped 0.3 percent this week, trimming its advance in 2013 to 8.4 percent. The broader Swiss Performance Index also increased 0.8 percent today.

“Sentiment is still for risk on, although not as intense as a few weeks ago” said Nils Rosendahl, an analyst at Nordea Markets in Stockholm. “Although there will be setbacks, there should still be further room to the upside in equities. Data out of China is supporting markets today.”

The volume of shares changing hands in SMI-listed companies was 13 percent lower than the average during the past 30 days, data compiled by Bloomberg showed.

China’s exports and imports rose more than estimated in a January that had five working days more than last year, the customs administration said today. Exports increased 25 percent from a year earlier, compared with the median economist projection of 17.5 percent. Imports climbed 28.8 percent, exceeding the 23.5 percent estimate in a Bloomberg News survey.

EU Budget

The leaders of the EU’s 27 member states agreed to a seven-year budget that cuts spending for the first time, according to a post on Twitter by Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, today. The final draft for 2014-2020 set a spending limit of 960 billion euros ($1.3 trillion), down from an original proposal of 1.047 trillion euros and less than the 994 billion euros spent in the current budget cycle.

Switzerland’s unemployment rate remained at the highest level in almost two years in January. The jobless rate, adjusted for seasonal swings, stayed at 3.1 percent, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs said today. That matched the median estimate of 11 economists in a Bloomberg News survey.

Swiss Life advanced 3.7 percent to 139.90 francs. Michael Huttner, an analyst at JPMorgan in London, raised the stock to overweight, the equivalent of buy, from neutral, citing faster earnings growth and an attractive valuation.

Swiss Re Ltd. added 1 percent to 70.35 francs.

EMS-Chemie, Emmi

EMS-Chemie gained 1.7 percent to 238.80 francs after saying it will pay a total dividend of 10 francs a share. The company reported 2012 earnings before interest and taxes of 319 million francs ($348 million), beating the average analyst projection of 315.4 million francs.

“EMS-Chemie again proved its defensive qualities: reliable dividend, robust margins, rock solid balance sheet and top-line growth even in adverse market conditions,” Patrick Rafaisz, an analyst at Vontobel Holding AG in Zurich, wrote in a note.

Lonza Group AG rallied 6.5 percent to 58.60 francs, leading a gauge of European health-care stocks higher. Roche Holding AG, the world’s biggest maker of cancer drugs, gained 2.3 percent to 202 francs.

Emmi lost 5 francs to 250 francs after UBS AG downgraded the dairy producer to neutral from buy, citing the stock’s 27 percent rally since Aug. 28. Emmi has jumped 8.7 percent this year, while the SMI has gained 8.4 percent.

Holcim Ltd. slipped 1.4 percent to 69.65 francs, the worst performance on the SMI.

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