Switzerland Stocks Advance; SGS, Julius Baer Lead Gains

Swiss stocks climbed, with the benchmark index posting quarterly and monthly gains, as Cypriot banks opened for the first time in nearly two weeks and German retail sales unexpectedly rose.

SGS SA, the world’s largest product inspector, posted the biggest increase on the Swiss Market Index. Nestle SA, the heaviest-weighted stock in the SMI, followed European food and beverage companies higher.

The SMI advanced 0.4 percent to 7,813.67 at the close of trading in Zurich, for a 2.9 percent monthly gain and a 15 percent quarterly increase. The broader Swiss Performance Index climbed 0.5 percent today. The number of shares changing hands in the SMI was 16 percent lower than the average of the past 30 days, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“I think what’s helping us more than anything today is the lack of disastrous news from Cyprus, and signs that, so far, a run on the banks has been avoided,” said Alex Neil, head of equity and derivatives trading at EFG Bank in Geneva. “It will be important to see if the capital controls are maintained.”

Cyprus’s banks opened their doors today for the first time since March 16, with new rules curbing access to cash preventing an initial panic to withdraw deposits. The Central Bank of Cyprus’s capital controls include a 300-euro ($383) daily limit on withdrawals and restrictions on transfers to accounts outside the country.

Retail sales in Europe’s largest economy gained 0.4 percent last month from January, when they surged a revised 3 percent, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said. Economists in a Bloomberg survey forecast a decline of 0.6 percent. German unemployment unexpectedly rose in March, another report showed.

U.S. Growth

In the U.S., data released today showed the economy grew at a faster pace than previously estimated in the fourth quarter, reflecting a bigger gain in business spending and a smaller trade gap.

SGS climbed 1.6 percent to 2,328 Swiss francs, rebounding after two days of losses.

Nestle, the world’s largest food company, gained 1.2 percent to 68.65 francs. A gauge of food and beverage shares climbed the most of the 19 industry groups in the Stoxx Europe 600 Index.

Credit Suisse Group AG fell the most on the SMI, sliding 1.7 percent to 24.91 francs. Switzerland’s second-largest bank agreed to sell British wealth manager JO Hambro Investment Management Ltd. to a Bermudian investment firm for 50 million pounds ($76 million).

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