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Swiss Market Retreats After Firm Start, Ends Marginally Down

After opening on a firm note and holding in positive territory till around mid afternoon, the Switzerland stock market turned sluggish and eventually ended Friday's session slightly lower.

The mood was by and large cautious after the U.S. imposed new sanctions on Iran. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced new sanctions on Iran's metal exports and eight senior Iranian officials.

U.S. President Donald Trump had said earlier this week that he would not respond militarily to the Iranian missile strikes on Iraq bases housing U.S. troops. Trump, who had earlier threatened harsh responses to any attack by Iran, said later that he will only impose new sanctions on Iran's already struggling economy.

The benchmark SMI, which rose to 10,688.70, ended down 11.48 points, or 0.11%, at 10,639.49, slightly off the day's low.

LafargeHolcim declined 1.05%. Credit Suisse, Novartis, Swiss Re, Richemont, ABB, Adecco, Swiss Life Holding and Alcon ended lower by 0.4 to 0.8%.

Sika gained about 1.25% and Lonza Group gained 1.15%, while Roche Holding advanced 0.8%.

Among the stocks in the midprice index, VAT Group, Julius Baer, Straumann Holding and Dufry declined 1 to 1.4%.

Dorma Kaba Holding, Barry Callebaut, OC Oerlikon Corp and Temenos Group lost 0.7 to 1%.

In economic news, Switzerland's unemployment rate remained stable in December, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, or SECO, reported. The report said jobless rate held steady at a seasonally adjusted 2.3% in December, in line with expectations.

On an unadjusted basis, the unemployment rate rose to 2.5% from 2.3% a month ago.

In December, the number of people out of work increased by 10,947 from the previous month to 117,277, the report said.

The agency said unemployment continued to decrease in 2019 despite subdued economic growth. The jobless rate for the whole year fell to 2.3% from 2.5% in 2018. Likewise, the youth unemployment rate decreased by 0.3 percentage points to 2.2%.

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