Stocks in Switzerland Drop; Zurich Insurance, UBS Decline

Stocks in Switzerland declined the most in two months, snapping three days of gains for the benchmark index, after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the Obama administration will hold Syria liable for using chemical weapons.

Zurich Insurance Group AG, the biggest Swiss insurer, fell 2.4 percent after Chief Financial Officer Pierre Wauthier was found dead at his home yesterday. UBS AG and Credit Suisse Group AG, the country’s largest lenders, slumped more than 2.5 percent, following European banks lower. Roche Holding AG fell 1.1 percent.

The Swiss Market Index dropped 1.7 percent to 7,886.07 at the close of trading in Zurich. The equity gauge rose 0.6 percent last week, as measures of manufacturing in the euro area and China increased more than forecast. The measure has advanced 16 percent so far this year. The broader Swiss Performance Index also slid 1.7 percent today.

“The markets are primarily burdened by the uncertainty about the further development of the Syrian crisis,” said Michele Rimann, a trader at Luzerner Kantonalbank AG in Lucerne, Switzerland. “Investors are uncertain and fear the consequences that a military strike against Syria would have. It seems that markets are slowly but surely not able to withstand negative news so well anymore.”

The volume of shares changing hands in SMI-listed companies was 11 percent higher than the average of the last 30 days, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Syrian Conflict

Kerry denounced last week’s attack on a suburb of Damascus, saying it required a response against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Syrian opposition groups say the strike killed more than 1,300 people.

“The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons, is a moral obscenity,” Kerry told reporters in Washington late yesterday.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry today warned that a U.S. attack on Syria would drag the whole region into conflict.

In the U.S., data released today showed that residential real-estate prices increased in June at close to the fastest pace in seven years.

The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 cities rose 12.1 percent in June from the same month in 2012 after rising 12.2 percent in the year ended in May, which was the biggest gain since March 2006, the group said today in New York. The increase matched the median forecast of 25 economists in a Bloomberg survey.

Zurich Insurance

Zurich Insurance dropped 2.4 percent to 237.60 Swiss francs, the lowest price in two months. The police are investigating the circumstances of Wauthier’s death, the company said in an e-mailed statement late yesterday, declining to disclose further details.

UBS and Credit Suisse lost 2.7 percent to 18.26 francs and 3.3 percent to 27.59 francs, respectively. A gauge of European banks was the second-worst performer of the 19 industry groups in the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Julius Baer Group Ltd. fell 2 percent to 41.30 francs.

Roche, the world’s biggest maker of cancer drugs, dropped 1.1 percent to 239.20 francs.

Actelion Ltd. slipped 1.5 percent to 64.30 francs. The drugmaker that gets almost 90 percent of sales from a treatment for a rare lung disease said Andre Muller will replace Chief Financial Officer Andrew Oakley, who is leaving to “focus on opportunities outside Actelion.” Muller will start in the position on Sept. 1.

Syngenta AG slid 1.1 percent to 367.60 francs, the most in a month. The world’s largest maker of crop chemicals said it will submit a legal challenge to the European Commission’s suspension of thiamethoxam, saying the decision was based on an inaccurate and incomplete assessment by the European Food Safety Authority and wrongly linked the pesticide to the decline of bee health.

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