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The business week in Switzerland

It was a busy week for Swiss corporate sector, with results out from the country's biggest retailer and largest life insurance group. Economic data also pointed to a continuing upturn in the Swiss economy.

Among the major stories:

- Unemployment in Switzerland fell to its lowest level in eight years, dropping to 2.1 per cent in April, down from 2.3 per cent in March. Figures from the Economics Ministry showed that just over 75,000 people were registered as unemployed last month, nearly 6,000 fewer than in March, or a fall of 0.2 per cent.
- Switzerland's biggest retailer, Migros, increased its turnover by 2.5 per cent in 1999 to SFr18.7 billion. Net profit was up more than 50 per cent to SFr613 million.
- The country's largest life insurance company, Swiss Life, said profits in 1999 leapt more than 40 per cent to SFr387 million. Swiss Life forecast further strong earnings growth for this year.
- Swiss Re, the world's second-biggest reinsurance group, saw its net profit for 1999 increase by 12 per cent to just over SFr2.8 billion. The rise in earnings matched analysts' expectations. The growth came despite last winter's storms, which added SFr900 million to the company's claims' bill.
- Life sciences group Novartis listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The firm hopes the move will raise its profile in the US market.
- The consumer confidence index rose again, up 19 points in April, the highest level since 1989. The quarterly index stood at 18 points in January.

by Tom O'Brien

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