LONDON ( The Deal) -- European stocks were mixed on Thursday, as an upset by Switzerland's central bank hammered shares in the Alpine nation while Germany held up after positive news on the economy.
The Swiss National Bank unexpectedly abandoned a ceiling on the Swiss franc against the euro, upsetting exporters as the currency surged and pushing the benchmark index in Zurich down by almost 9%. Luxury goods maker Cie. Financiere Richemont (CFRUY) , whose products include Cartier jewellery and Montblanc pens, plunged 11% as it also posted weak third-quarter sales.
Other exporters to be hammered included drugs makers Roche (RHHBY) and Novartis (NVS - Get Report) , and foodmaker Nestle (NSRGY) . The Swiss Market Index of leading stocks fell throughout the morning and by around midday was down 8.76% at 8,394.16. The central bank also cut a key interest rate to -0.75% from -0.25%, making it costlier to keep money on deposit. By around midday, the Swiss franc had exceeded parity with the euro after the lifting of the Sfr1.20 peg pushed the currency up about 14%.
In the U.K., the FTSE 100 extended Wednesday's heavy losses and was down 0.49% at 6,359.59. In Frankfurt the DAX edged 0.04% at 9,827.18 and in Paris the CAC 40 fell 0.56% to 4,199.38.
Germany's Federal Statistics Office said the economy expanded by 1.5% last year, up from 0.1% the year earlier, confirming that the economy had accelerated out of a worrying period of stagnation.
In Germany, Nivea maker Beiersdorf (BDRFY) led the DAX higher after announcing full-year sales ahead of forecasts.
In London, Home Retail Group (HMRTY) , which runs the Homebase home-improvement stores and variety store chain Argos, fell 7% after same-store sales at Argos missed forecasts in the third quarter as the retailer refrained from slashing prices to chase revenue. Argos gross margins improved by 25 basis points as same-store sales edged up just 0.1%.
In Tokyo, Nikkei 225 closed up 1.86% at 17,108.70. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng gained 0.99% to 24,350.91.