TA-25 declines, led by Makhteshim Agan; Cellcom climbs

By NEWS AGENCIES
August 15, 2007 07:54

Israeli stocks fell for the first time in three days Tuesday, paced by Makhteshim Agan Industries Ltd., the world's largest maker of generic agrochemicals.

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SHARES TEL AVIV Israeli stocks fell for the first time in three days Tuesday, paced by Makhteshim Agan Industries Ltd., the world's largest maker of generic agrochemicals. The TA-25 Index lost 0.6 percent, to 1,081.40, at the close in Tel Aviv. Investors traded about NIS 1.24 billion of shares and convertibles. Makhteshim, which reported second-quarter earnings Tuesday, dropped NIS 0.42, or 1.3%, to NIS 30.83. Operating profit reached 16.1% of sales in the quarter, the company said. Gross and operating margins turned out "lower than we were looking for," Leader & Co. Ltd. wrote in an e-mailed report to investors. "Seems that efficiency efforts will come into play in later quarters." Cellcom Israel Ltd. gained NIS 3.70, or 3.3%, to NIS 107.40, the biggest daily gain in a month. Israel's largest wireless phone provider said second-quarter profit climbed 48% to NIS 212 million as subscribers used their phones more and the company cut costs. Internet Gold Ltd. jumped NIS 2.15, or 4.5%, to NIS 49.90. The company that serves a quarter of Israel's Internet users said net income climbed to NIS 22.5m. in the second quarter from NIS 6.8m. a year ago, according to a statement distributed by PRNewswire. Nice Systems Ltd. added NIS 1.70, or 1.2%, to NIS 142.50. The maker of digital recording systems will "benefit from solid business momentum and come with compelling valuation," Daniel Meron, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, wrote in a report to investors. Nice has "best ideas for high quality, good upside potential and low risk," the analyst added. Orckit Communications Ltd. gained NIS 0.71, or 2.1%, to NIS 35.35 after the maker of telecommunications equipment said an arbitration panel in New York has issued an interim ruling granting Orckit $12m. in damages from Conexant Systems Inc. WALL STREET Stocks declined after Wal-Mart Stores Inc. lowered its earnings forecast, spurring concern that the housing slump will keep consumers from spending. Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, tumbled the most since 2002 after CEO H. Lee Scott said Americans face "difficult pressure economically." Home Depot Inc., the largest home-improvement retailer, slipped after saying annual profit may drop as much as 15%. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index retreated 14.19, or 1%, to 1,438.73 during late morning trading in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 125.02, or 0.9%, to 13,111.51 and the Nasdaq Composite Index decreased 20.73, or 0.8%, to 2,521.51. Consumer stocks posted the biggest retreat among 10 industry groups in the S&P 500, bringing their 2007 loss to 6%. Only financial stocks have fallen more this year, on concern widening losses in subprime mortgages will spread and slow economic growth. EUROPE Stocks fell, led by financial-services companies after UBS AG said profit growth may slow and bank shares declined in the US and Asia. The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index sank 1.3% to 366.18 at 4:30 p.m. in London as all the 18 industry groups dropped. The Stoxx 50 lost 1.5%, as did the Euro Stoxx 50, a measure for the euro region. Australia's Rams Home Loans Group Ltd. said today the shakeout in global debt markets may reduce profit. Ratings company DBRS said 17 Canadian asset-backed commercial paper issuers, including Coventree Inc., are seeking back-up financing from banks after failing to sell their short-term debt. National benchmarks fell in all 18 Western European markets except Greece. France's CAC 40 decreased 1.8% and Germany's DAX dropped 0.6% while the UK's FTSE 100 slid 1.3% to 6,139.60. ASIA Financial stocks fell after Australian mortgage lender Rams Home Loans Group Ltd. said "unprecedented disruptions" in credit markets may reduce its profit. China's CSI 300 Index rose 1.6% to a record after Chinese retail sales grew at the fastest pace in three years. The Morgan Stanley Capital International Asia-Pacific Index declined 0.2% to 149.05 at 7:31 p.m. in Tokyo. The MSCI Asia-Pacific Financials Index dropped 0.8%, the second-biggest drag on the benchmark. South Korea's Kospi index slid 1.7%. Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average gained 0.3% to 16,844.61. Mitsui & Co. led Japanese trading companies higher as investors judged recent losses excessive. All other markets dropped, except Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. Pakistan was closed for a holiday. CURRENCY The shekel weakened to a Bank of Israel fixing of 4.2220 per dollar from 4.2140 late Monday. The dollar maintained gains against its major rivals after data about higher producer prices and a narrowing trade deficit came in better than expectations. The dollar was up 0.1% against the yen at 118.39 yen. The euro was down 0.2% at $1.3579, while the British pound was off 0.5% at $2.0001 COMMODITIES Crude-oil futures rose, supported in part by worries over the impact of a potential tropical depression taking shape near the Gulf of Mexico. Crude oil for September delivery gained 31 cents at $71.93 a barrel during morning trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold futures edged lower Tuesday, as gains in the dollar weighed on the precious metal. Gold for December delivery fell $2 at $678.90 an ounce on the NYMEX.


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