Swiss stocks rose, after posting two straight weeks of gains, as investors awaited early results from Italian elections and speculation grew that Japan may appoint a central bank chief who favors stimulus.
Transocean Ltd., the world’s largest offshore-rig contractor, posted the best performance on the equity benchmark. Holcim Ltd. (HOLN), the biggest cement maker, advanced after MainFirst Bank AG recommended the shares. Roche Holding AG (ROG), the largest maker of cancer drugs, added 1 percent.
The Swiss Market Index (SMI) gained 0.5 percent to 7,595.1 at 11:58 a.m. in Zurich. The benchmark measure has jumped 11 percent so far this year as U.S. lawmakers agreed on a compromise federal budget and the Swiss franc depreciated against the euro. The broader Swiss Performance Index also added 0.5 percent today.
“The markets appear quite indifferent to political news at the moment,” said Konstantin Giantiroglou, head of investment advisory at Neue Aargauer Bank in Brugg, Switzerland. “The Italian election has been on everybody’s mind. Market participants are probably prepared for all outcomes.”
The volume of shares changing hands in SMI-listed companies was 24 percent lower than the average of the last 30 days, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Italians are voting to choose their next prime minister amid a debate on the nation’s austerity program. Initial estimates of the results of the two-day parliamentary elections will be released after 3 p.m. in Rome today.
Incumbent Mario Monti and front-runner Pier Luigi Bersani of the Democratic Party have vowed to continue with austerity, while Silvio Berlusconi and Beppe Grillo have promised to overturn tax increases.
In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may nominate Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda as Bank of Japan governor, a government official with knowledge of the discussions said. Kuroda said earlier this month additional monetary easing can be justified for 2013.
“Speculation on the next Bank of Japan appointment will have markets cheering in the short-term, but looking beyond, an expansionary monetary policy can’t cure the illnesses on a sustainable basis,” said Giantiroglou.
In China, manufacturing is expanding at the slowest pace in four months, a private survey showed. The preliminary reading of a purchasing managers’ index was 50.4 in February, according to a statement from HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics.
Transocean rose 1.6 percent to 49.77 francs, snapping three days of losses.
Holcim increased 1 percent to 73.40 francs after MainFirst raised the stock to outperform from neutral, meaning investors should buy the stock.
Roche added 2.20 francs to 214.40 francs, contributing the most to the SMI’s climb. The shares gained 1.5 percent on Friday after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared Roche and ImmunoGen Inc.’s breast-cancer therapy.
The approval is “an important milestone for Roche. It is a further incremental step towards replacing the bestseller breast-cancer treatment Herceptin before patent expiry in 2015-16,” Bank Sarasin & Cie. analyst David Kaegi, who has a buy rating on the stock, said.
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