Most Swiss Stocks Decline; Roche, Novartis Limit Losses

Most Swiss stocks declined, after the benchmark index posted the biggest weekly gain in a month, as Nestle SA traded without the right to its latest dividend and as manufacturing growth in the New York region missed estimates.

Roche Holding AG and Novartis AG rallied to their highest prices since 2007, leading a gauge of European health-care shares higher.

The Swiss Market Index fell less than 0.1 percent to 7,754.73 at the close of trade in Zurich as data showed China’s first-quarter economic growth missed projections. Fourteen stocks on the gauge slid, while six climbed. The measure has still rallied 14 percent this year as U.S. lawmakers agreed on a compromise budget and data on housing and jobs fueled optimism the world’s biggest economy is recovering. The broader Swiss Performance Index added 0.4 percent today.

“The SMI is holding almost flat as most other European indexes are down on the day, thanks largely to health-care stocks like Roche and Novartis,” Ion-Marc Valahu, co-founder and fund manager at Clairinvest in Geneva, wrote in an e-mail. “Both stocks are up to levels not seen since 2007.”

In the U.S., the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s general economic index dropped to 3.1 this month from 9.2 in March. Readings exceeding zero signal expansion in New York, northern New Jersey and southern Connecticut. Economists in a Bloomberg survey had called for a drop to 7.

Chinese Economy

China’s gross domestic product rose 7.7 percent in the first quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics said in Beijing. That compared with the 8 percent median forecast by analysts in a Bloomberg News survey and 7.9 percent in the fourth quarter. The country’s industrial production increased in March at a slower pace than economists’ had estimated, while retail-sales growth matched forecasts.

Nestle, which accounts for almost 23 percent of weight in the SMI, shaved almost 55 points off the gauge as the shares traded without the right to their latest dividend. Adjusting for the lost dividend, the shares rose 0.3 percent to 65.55 francs on a comparable basis.

Roche climbed 2.7 percent to 231.10 francs, its highest price since May 2007. The world’s largest maker of cancer drugs entered into a collaboration with Ascletis Inc. to develop and commercialize Roche’s investigational drug danoprevir in China for the treatment of Hepatitis C Virus.

Novartis rose 1.8 percent to 69 francs. its highest price since June 2007. A gauge of European health-care companies posted the best performance of the 19 industry groups in the Stoxx Europe 600 Index.

First-quarter net income rose to 132 million francs ($142 million) from 67 million francs in the first three months last year. Revenue rose 5.4 percent to 5.09 billion francs.

Schmolz & Bickenbach AG dropped 5.3 percent to 2.70 francs. Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg wants the company to make a 350 million-euro share sale in May or June, NZZ am Sonntag reported, citing Chief Executive Officer Oliver Thum.

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