Swiss Stocks Decline for a Second Day; Petroplus Retreats
Swiss stocks fell for a second day after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said economic recovery hasn’t yet been accomplished and a report showed U.S. durable-goods orders rose less than forecast in February.
Nestle SA, the world’s largest food company, dropped after UBS AG downgraded its recommendation on the stock. Petroplus Holdings AG, which filed for insolvency in January, plunged 63 percent after applying to delist its shares. Nationale Suisse (NATN) advanced 3.3 percent after the insurer reported earnings.
The Swiss Market Index (SMI), a measure of Switzerland’s largest and most actively traded companies, fell 0.3 percent to 6,250.43 at the close in Zurich. The SMI slid 0.2 percent yesterday after a report showed confidence among U.S consumers dropped this month. The measure has still rallied 5.3 percent so far this year. The broader Swiss Performance Index slipped 0.4 percent today.
“We are coming to the end of the quarter and some window dressing is going on,” said Jean-Paul Jeckelmann, chief investment officer at Banque Bonhote & Cie. in Neuchatel, Switzerland, who helps manage about $1.4 billion in equities. “The mood in the background seems to remain good and in the last few weeks, corrections have been very short-lived as a lot of cash still remains on the sideline waiting to re-enter the market.”
The number of shares changing hands on the SMI today was 73 percent lower than the 30-day average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“It’s far too early to declare victory” on U.S. recovery, Bernanke said in remarks published yesterday. The jobless rate remains too high and policy makers don’t rule out further options to boost growth, he told ABC News.
The U.S. jobless rate held at 8.3 percent in February, a three-year low, and Bernanke said that “it could still be a few more years” before unemployment returns to normal levels, and “until we get faster growth than we’ve been seeing, it is probably gonna take a while still.”
A Commerce Department report showed that orders for durable goods in the U.S. rose in February, the fourth monthly gain in the last five. Bookings for goods meant to last at least three years advanced 2.2 percent after dropping a revised 3.6 percent a month earlier. Economists had called for 3 percent gain, according to the median forecast of 83 economists in a Bloomberg News survey.
Nestle (NESN) dropped 0.4 percent to 56.55 francs after UBS AG cut the company’s shares to neutral, the equivalent of hold, from buy and removed the stock from its European “key call” list.
Nationale Suisse rose 3.3 percent to 36.25 francs, its highest price since May 2011, after the insurer said its annual net income rose to 167.3 million francs ($185 million) last year from 91.6 million francs in 2010.
Roche Holding AG, the world’s largest maker of cancer drugs, increase 0.9 percent to 159.80 francs and Sonova Holding AG, the hearing-aid maker, added 1.5 percent to 99.80 francs. A gauge of European health-care companies was the second-best performer in the Stoxx Europe 600 Index.
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