Swiss Stocks Advance for Fourth Day; Novartis Gains

Swiss stocks climbed for a fourth day, extending a four-year high, as investors grew optimistic about U.S. corporate earnings and as a report showed American industrial production rose in December.

Novartis AG added the most points to the Swiss Market Index. Holcim Ltd. rose 1.8 percent after Jefferies & Co. increased its price forecast for the stock. Dufry AG slid 0.9 percent as Global Retail Group sold its entire stake in the company. Barry Callebaut AG dropped as the largest maker of bulk chocolate reported first-quarter sales that missed analysts’ estimates.

The Swiss Market Index advanced 0.5 percent to 7,304.85 at the close in Zurich, for the longest stretch of gains in five weeks. The gauge has surged 7.1 percent since the New Year as U.S. lawmakers reached a budget compromise and the Swiss franc dropped to the weakest since December 2011 against the euro. That compares with the 2.3 percent increase in the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, the Europe-wide benchmark. The broader Swiss Performance Index added 0.4 percent.

“The Swiss market has been one of the best stock markets in Europe recently due to the weakness of the Swiss franc despite the high weighting of defensive stocks within the index,” said Konstantin Giantiroglou, head of investment advisory at Neue Aargauer Bank in Brugg, Switzerland.

The volume of shares changing hands on SMI-listed companies was 25 percent higher than the average of the last 30 days, data compiled by Bloomberg showed.

U.S. Earnings

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. reported fourth-quarter earnings of $5.60 a share, beating the average analyst estimate of $3.66. About 74 percent of the 39 companies listed in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index that have reported quarterly results so far beat analyst estimates. Profits for the quarter grew 2.5 percent, according to analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

U.S. output at factories, mines and utilities rose 0.3 percent last month, after a revised 1 percent gain in November, data from the Federal Reserve showed. That matched the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey,

The World Bank yesterday cut its global-growth forecast for this year as austerity measures, high unemployment and low business confidence weigh on developed economies.

The Washington-based bank projected the world economy will expand 2.4 percent, after growing 2.3 percent in 2012. That forecast is lower than its June estimate of 3 percent.

Novartis increased 0.7 percent to 60.80 francs. The stock has a weighting of 19 percent on the SMI. A gauge of European health-care companies was among the best performers of the 19 industry groups in the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. The measure has jumped 2.6 percent so far this year.

Holcim gained 1.8 percent to 67.65 francs. Jefferies increased its price target for the world’s biggest cement maker by sales by 6.5 percent to 82 francs.

Cytos Trials

Cytos Biotechnology AG rallied 3 percent to 4.41 francs, the highest since Oct. 24, after the developer of an experimental drug for allergic asthma said a problem with a trial of the product won’t delay results of the study. The company said it will replace material to be used in the trial of its CYT003 drug after a technical issue and the overall guidance for the clinical trial remains unchanged.

Dufry slipped 0.9 percent to 118 francs. Global Retail Group sold its entire 13 percent stake in the company at 114 francs a share.

Barry Callebaut slipped 0.8 percent to 903 francs as it reported first-quarter sales of 1.25 billion francs ($1.34 billion), missing the average 1.38 billion-franc projection in a Bloomberg News survey. The bulk chocolate maker’s first-quarter shipments rose 8.3 percent to 388,160 tonnes.

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