Israeli stock index rises to a record

The TA-25 Index advanced 0.6 percent to 948.83, its highest close ever.

SHARES TEL AVIV Israel's benchmark stock index rose to a record, led by Bank Leumi Le-Israel Ltd., the country's second-largest lender. The TA-25 Index advanced 0.6 percent to 948.83, its highest close ever. Leumi gained 1% to NIS 17.57 after Fitch raised its credit rating yesterday to "positive" from "stable". Shares of Hapoalim rose 0.3% to NIS 21.33. Shares of First International Bank advanced 1.8% to NIS 56.43. Azorim Investment Development & Construction Co. climbed 4.7% to NIS 61.48. Makhteshim Agan Industries Ltd. advanced 3.7% to NIS 24.4. Nice Systems Ltd. gained 1.4% to NIS 132.90. Perrigo Co advanced 3.4% to NIS 71.89. WALL STREET US stocks rose, pushing the Standard & Poor's 500 Index toward a six-year high. The S&P 500 gained 0.% to 1428.19 at midday trade Wednesday in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average headed for its 22nd record of 2006, adding 0.2% to 12,492.63. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.4% to 2439.44. EUROPE European stocks rose for the first time in three days after acquisitions by Ericsson AB and Arcelor Mittal lifted technology and steel companies. The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index added 0.3% to 364.56 at the close in London. The Stoxx 50 rose 0.2% and the Euro Stoxx 50, a measure for the 12 nations sharing the euro, advanced 0.4%. National benchmarks rose in 15 of the 18 western European markets. ASIA Asian shares rallied from the biggest drop in a month. The Morgan Stanley Capital International Asia-Pacific Index rose 1.3% to 138.84 in late trade in Tokyo. Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average gained 1.4% to 7,011.04. Markets rose across Asia, except in the Philippines and India. CURRENCIES The dollar made some headway against the euro at midday Wednesday. The euro traded at $1.3186 Wednesday morning, down a bit from $1.3192 in late dealings Tuesday. Earlier the euro traded as high as $1.3244. The dollar stood at 118.36 yen, up from 118.11 yen in the prior session. COMMODITIES ENERGY Crude oil climbed after a government report showed that US inventories dropped more than expected. Supplies of crude oil fell 6.32 million barrels in the week ended December 15 to 329.1 million barrels. Crude oil for February delivery rose 0.8% to $63.98 a barrel at midday trade Wednesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. GOLD Gold prices fell in New York. Gold futures for February delivery dropped 0.3% to $623.50 an ounce during Wednesday morning trade on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, after earlier rising $2.50 to $627.90.