Swiss Stocks Advance; SMI Rallies to 4 1/2-Year High

Stocks in Switzerland advanced, with the Swiss Market Index rising to the highest since June 2008, amid optimism about a meeting of finance ministers from the Group of 20 nations and a rally in Novartis AG.

Novartis, which makes up about 19 percent of the benchmark index, led gains. Transocean declined as Deutsche Bank AG recommended selling the shares.

The SMI gained 0.3 percent to 7,500.57 at the close of trading in Zurich. The gauge has soared 9.9 percent this year as the Swiss franc depreciated against the euro. The broader Swiss Performance Index added 0.2 percent today.

“It’s astonishing how positive sentiment is,” Peter Braendle, who helps manage $60 billion at Swisscanto Asset Management in Zurich, said by telephone. “Small pullbacks are quick to rebound, and the earnings season wasn’t bad at all. Some investors are waiting for a bigger dip as a buy opportunity, but they are still waiting.”

The volume of shares changing hands in SMI-listed companies was 50 percent higher than the average of the last 30 days, data compiled by Bloomberg showed.

Russia wants to head off a global currency war by pushing policy makers to make stronger commitments against exchange-rate manipulation as G-20 officials search for common ground in Moscow.

The G-20 should have more “specific” language opposing exchange-rate interference in the communique that will be issued after the two-day talks among finance chiefs end tomorrow, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said yesterday. Russia holds the G-20’s rotating presidency this year.

U.S. Manufacturing

Manufacturing in the New York region unexpectedly expanded in February, suggesting the area’s factories are emerging from a slump that began in August.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s general economic index climbed to 10, the highest since May 2012 and exceeding the most optimistic forecast in a Bloomberg survey, from minus 7.8 in January. The median projection called for minus 2. Readings of less than zero signal contraction in New York, northern New Jersey and southern Connecticut.

Novartis added 1.1 percent to 63.90 Swiss francs, contributing the most to the SMI’s gain. A gauge of European health-care companies was among the best performers of the 19 industry groups in the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Sonova Holding AG increased 1.1 percent to 114.60 francs, while Actelion Ltd. jumped 3 percent to 48 francs.

Transocean lost 3.2 percent to 51.65 francs, after an earlier gain of as much as 1.4 percent. The company won approval to plead guilty to violating the U.S. Clean Water Act for its role in the April 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Transocean, the Vernier, Switzerland-based owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that burned and sank in the gulf, agreed last month to pay a $400 million criminal fine and $1 billion in civil penalties to the U.S. Transocean pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count.

Separately, Deutsche Bank cut the stock to sell from hold.

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