Swiss Stocks Advance to Five-Year High on Dow Optimism

Swiss stocks rose to a five-year high as investors bet that a record set by the Dow Jones Industrial Average in the U.S. signaled more gains for equities and as American jobless claims unexpectedly dropped.

Swiss Re Ltd., the world’s second-biggest reinsurer, and Credit Suisse Group AG followed European insurers and banks higher. Holcim Ltd. rose to the highest price since June 2010 after the largest cement maker proposed new members for the board and said it will cooperate with HeidelbergCement AG in Australia.

The Swiss Market Index gained 0.8 percent to 7,842.85 in Zurich, the highest level since January 2008. The benchmark gauge has climbed 15 percent this year. The broader Swiss Performance Index added 0.8 percent today. In the U.S., the Dow extended a record high and headed for its 10th day of gains, the longest winning streak since November 1996.

“The market is focusing on the U.S. with the new Dow record,” said John Plassard, Geneva-based vice president at Mirabaud Securities LLP, which oversees about $28 billion. “I say ‘don’t fight the record.’ I’m optimistic about stocks.”

The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits unexpectedly dropped last week to the lowest level in almost two months. Claims fell by 10,000 to 332,000 in the week ended March 9, according to data from the Labor Department in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for an increase to 350,000.

Southern Europe

European leaders started a two-day summit in Brussels today, with euro-area finance ministers meeting separately tomorrow to discuss a bailout for Cyprus. Policy makers are loosening austerity measures as the recession and mounting unemployment in southern Europe overtake the debt crisis as the region’s biggest headache.

Swiss Re climbed 1.2 percent to 77.85 Swiss francs, while Credit Suisse added 2.6 percent to 26.86 francs. Gauges of European insurance companies and banks were among the best performers of the 19 industry groups on the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, the regional benchmark.

Holcim advanced 2.7 percent to 77.25 francs. The company said Hanne Sorensen and Anne Wade will be proposed for election to the board at a shareholder meeting on April 17. Also, Wolfgang Reitzle will take over as chairman in 2014.

Holcim said it will sell 25 percent of its Cement Australia unit to HeidelbergCement and both companies will have an equal footing on the board, with the chairman seat rotating.

Nobel Biocare Holding AG, the second-biggest maker of dental implants, jumped 4.6 percent to 9.61 francs. UBS AG added the stock to its most preferred list, saying the company could provide “a positive message” on its restructuring program at a conference tomorrow.

The number of shares changing hands in companies on the SMI was 5.1 percent lower than the average of the past 30 days, data compiled by Bloomberg showed.