Swiss Stocks Climb to Their Highest Level in Six Weeks

Swiss stocks rose to their highest level in six weeks after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke backed sustained stimulus for the forseeable future.

Clariant AG gained 2.7 percent as people familiar with the situation said the company has considered selling its leather-chemical business or merging the unit with assets owned by Wendel SA. Swatch Group AG and Cie. Financiere Richemont SA both rose at least 1 percent. Partners Group Holding AG slumped 6.4 percent, its biggest drop in 4 1/2 years.

The Swiss Market Index rose 0.2 percent to 7,986.4 at the close in Zurich. The gauge has rallied 2.6 percent so far this week amid optimism that economic data and corporate earnings will improve. The broader Swiss Performance Index also added 0.2 percent today.

“The up move today confirms the joyful reaction of the markets to Bernanke’s comments, which surely were supportive,” said Christoph Riniker, head of strategy research at Julius Baer Group Ltd. in Zurich. “Sentiment is quite positive. I think the mood can last for a while, but it being summer, a lull with low volumes can’t be excluded. However, I don’t expect a big setback in the next coming weeks.’

The volume of shares changing hands in SMI-listed companies was 19 percent lower than the 30-day average today, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Fed Minutes

Bernanke spoke after the Fed released minutes of its June 18-19 meeting showing that many Fed officials wanted to see more signs that employment is improving before paring bond purchases. The minutes also showed that about half of the participants in the Federal Open Market Committee wanted to halt the $85 billion in monthly bond purchases by the end of the year.

Clariant AG added 2.7 percent to 14.30 Swiss francs. French private-equity firm Wendel SA has considered buying Clariant’s leather-chemical business, four people with knowledge of the situation said.

Clariant wants to divest the business, yet would consider a tie-up with Wendel’s Stahl Holdings if such a venture offered more value than bids for the whole business, said the people.

Swatch, the largest maker of Swiss watches, rose 1.2 percent to 556.50 francs and Richemont, the owner of the Cartier brand, increased 1 percent to 88.85 francs.

Nestle, Temenos

Nestle SA, the world’s largest food company, added 1 percent to 63.95 francs, contributing the most to the SMI’s gain. Chief Executive Officer Paul Bulcke said today that China’s economic growth is slowing to a more sustainable level and that the country’s slowdown isn’t a ‘‘high-alert” issue.

Temenos Group AG gained 3.3 percent to 23.80 francs after Vontobel Holding AG raised its price estimate for the banking-software maker by 24 percent to 31 francs, citing a relicensing opportunity that offers substantial upside.

Partners Group slumped 6.4 percent to 254 francs. The money manager focused on private equity posted a 5.9 percent increase in assets in the first half of the year after clients added funds at the lower end of its target range.

Kuehne & Nagel International AG, the world’s biggest sea-freight forwarder, slid 1.1 percent to 112.60 francs, halting five days of gains, its longest winning streak since October.

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