* FTSEurofirst 300 ends 1 pct higher, DAX hits record high
* Swiss SMI ends 6 pct lower, down 14 pct in 2 days
* M.Stanley: 85 pct of Swiss firms’ sales come from abroad
* SG strategists warn that Swiss dividends at risk
By Blaise Robinson
PARIS, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Swiss stocks fell 6 percent on Friday, extending a sell-off sparked by the Swiss National Bank’s surprise decision to remove a ceiling on the Swiss franc that sent the currency soaring.
Shares in other European countries rallied, however, lifted by mounting expectations the European Central Bank will soon launch quantitative easing, and Germany’s DAX index set a record high. A rebound in oil prices also boosted energy shares, with Total gaining 3.2 percent and Royal Dutch Shell adding 2.4 percent.
Swiss watchmakers Swatch and Richemont, which owns Cartier, are considered the most vulnerable to a higher franc because their products are largely produced in Switzerland but sold abroad. They lost 7.1 percent and 6.7 percent respectively on Friday, with both stocks down about 20 percent in two days.
Financial markets were shocked on Thursday by the SNB’s decision to scrap a three-year-old cap on the value of the franc, which subsequently soared. A wave of profit warnings from Swiss companies is now expected, and investment banks have started to slash their earnings forecasts for several companies.
“The stronger franc will be a drag on earnings for Swiss multinationals,” said Martin Moeller, the head of equities at Geneva-based Union Bancaire Privee.
“The scope of the damage will depend on the exchange rate in the next few quarters, but the negative reaction on the market (this week) is normal given the new exchange rate.”
Companies such as pharmaceutical giants Novartis and Roche as well as Adecco, the world’s biggest staffing firm by sales, generate more than 95 percent of their sales from abroad, according to Morgan Stanley.
“We estimate that 85 percent of Swiss company sales come from overseas and many of the large-cap names generate 90-95 percent of their revenues this way,” Morgan Stanley analysts said in a note.
The 6 percent slide in the Swiss blue-chip index SMI meant it had lost 14 percent in two sessions - hitting its lowest level since December 2013 during the session.
Societe Generale strategists warned that Swiss companies might slash dividends.
“The dividend yield on these companies is key given that this is a country already with a negative sovereign bond yield,” they said in a note.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index ended 1 percent higher, at 1,407.17 points, adding to gains made late on Thursday. Investors decided then that ditching the franc’s cap meant the SNB saw the ECB’s potential bond-buying programme as imminent. Such a programme is expected to be strongly supportive for euro zone equities.
Germany’s DAX index gained 1.4 percent on Friday, while France’s CAC 40 rose 1.3 percent and Italy’s MIB surged 2.2 percent.
Most fund managers and traders expect the ECB to unveil a quantitative easing programme at its policy meeting next week.
“QE (speculation) has been around for so long that I think it will be a ‘buy the rumour and sell the announcement’,” said Markus Huber, a trader at Peregrine & Black.
Greek shares lagged on Friday, with Athens’ benchmark losing 1.8 percent. Two major Greek lenders have applied to tap the national central bank’s emergency funding a year after ending their reliance on it, bankers said on Friday, as Greeks withdraw cash before a snap election on Jan. 25.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up
Editing by Larry King and Susan Fenton