Swiss Stocks Little Changed on U.S. House-Sales Report

Stocks in Switzerland were little changed, after the Swiss Market Index climbed to a 4 1/2-year high yesterday, as a report showed sales of new houses in the U.S. in December fell short of economists’ estimates.

Novartis AG lost 0.7 percent after saying U.S. prosecutors have begun an investigation into its marketing practices. Transocean Ltd., the world’s largest offshore-rig contractor, slid 0.9 percent.

The SMI added less than 0.1 percent to 7,458.66 at the close in Zurich. The gauge has advanced 1.2 percent this week. It surged yesterday to its highest level since June 2008 as the Swiss franc weakened against the euro and the U.S. House of Representatives voted to temporarily suspend the government’s borrowing limit. The broader Swiss Performance Index increased 0.1 percent today.

“Swiss stocks have been among the top performers of the year so far, and their gains this week are driven in part by a weaker franc,” said Christoph Riniker, head of strategy research at Julius Baer Group Ltd. in Zurich. “Fundamental factors including valuation and exposure to defensive stocks point to some caution in investing.”

In the U.S., a report showed new-house sales unexpectedly declined to a 369,000 annual pace last month, missing the 385,000 median forecast of economists in a Bloomberg survey. Americans bought a revised 398,000 new properties in November.

Business Sentiment

In Europe, a measure of German business confidence rose in January more than economists had predicted. The Ifo institute’s business-climate index, which is based on a survey of 7,000 executives, climbed to 104.2 this month from 102.4 in December. That exceeded the median forecast of economists surveyed in a Bloomberg survey for a reading of 103.

The European Central Bank said that banks will repay 137 billion euros ($184 billion) of three-year loans on Jan. 30, their first opportunity to return the funds. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had predicted that the banks would initially pay back 84 billion euros. The ECB made available 1 trillion euros of loans, through its Longer Term Refinancing Operations, in two tranches a year ago.

The volume of shares changing hands on SMI-listed companies was 2.5 percent lower than the average of the last 30 days, data compiled by Bloomberg showed.

Novartis, Transocean

Novartis AG lost 0.7 percent to 62.15 francs after Europe’s biggest drugmaker said in a regulatory filing that federal prosecutors sent a subpoena to its U.S. unit. They sought documents on the company’s sales practices, including payments to health-care providers, for the hypertension medicine Tekturna, Novartis said in a statement.

Roche Holding AG declined 0.5 percent to 203.50 francs. Transocean slipped 0.9 percent to 51.90 francs.

SGS SA advanced 1 percent to 2,196 francs after Exane BNP Paribas SA increased its forecast for the shares by 7 percent to 2,300 francs. The brokerage said that margins at the world’s largest product inspector will probably climb in 2013.

Nestle SA, which accounts for 23 percent of the SMI, gained 0.9 percent to 64.10 francs.

Mondobiotech Holding AG surged 38 percent to 22 centimes, its highest price in six months after saying it will merge with Italian pharmaceutical-services company Pierrel SpA.

DKSH Holding AG, which helps its clients expand into Asian markets, advanced 2.1 percent to 72.40 francs after saying it acquired South Korean medical-device distributor Miraecare.

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