Israel's main stock index dropped, led by Makhteshim Agan Industries Ltd., the world's largest maker of agrochemicals.
The TA-25 Stock Index lost 4.98, or 0.5 percent, to 955.73, after rising as much as 0.6% earlier in the session. Fifteen stocks declined and 10 advanced. Investors bought and sold about NIS 1.64 billion in shares and convertibles.
Makhteshim tumbled NIS 0.61, or 2.4%, to NIS 24.35. Monsanto Co. and DuPont Co., the world's leading developers of genetically modified seeds, may win faster approval to sell their products in Brazil under new biotech regulations, according to analysts.
Monsanto, the largest biotech crop developer, may get Brazilian approval this year to market seeds engineered to resist the corn borer insect, P.J. Juvekar, an analyst at Citigroup Global Markets, wrote in a report. DuPont and Dow Chemical Co. may win approval for their jointly developed version of the insect-killing corn seed next year, he added.
"Any positive genetically modified news is inherently negative for MA Industries as it markets traditional pesticides and herbicides," Clal Finance Batucha Investment Management Ltd. wrote in a note to investors.
Can-Fite BioPharma Ltd. surged NIS 0.07, or 5.5%, to NIS 1.31. The biotechnology firm that makes medicines for auto-immune diseases and cancer raised NIS 40 million in a private placement after expanding the sale by 19% because of excess demand.
Clal Insurance Enterprise Holdings Ltd., Israel's biggest insurer by premiums, climbed NIS 3.40, or 3.2%, to NIS 111.20. Traders are betting that Elbit Medical Imaging Ltd. "will buy control of Clal Insurance at a premium to the market price," Clal Finance wrote in a note to investors. Clal Finance is owned by Clal Insurance.
A spokeswoman with IDB Holdings Corp., which owns Clal, said it has received several acquisition proposals for Clal Insurance in the past weeks, yet all of them were turned down.
Elbit Medical denied the speculation.
"It's not going to happen," spokesman Asaf Porat said by telephone from Tel Aviv.
Shares of Elbit gained NIS 4.50, or 2.8%, to NIS 164.30.
Gazit Globe Ltd. increased NIS 0.63, or 1.2%, to NIS 53.85. The Israeli property developer plans to raise $150m. to $200m. in an initial public offering in London, Yediot Ahronot reported, without saying where it got the information.
A company spokeswoman, who asked not to be identified, declined to comment on the report.
Migdal Insurance Holdings Ltd. added NIS 0.09, or 1.5%, to NIS 6.29 shekels. Israel's biggest life insurer said fourth-quarter profit more than quadrupled as the stock market boosted investment income and as earnings from life insurance rose. Net income for the three months ended December 31 jumped to NIS 282m. from NIS 69m. a year earlier.
Partner Communications Ltd. advanced NIS 1.03, or 1.8%, to NIS 57.69. The stock of Israel's second-largest mobile-phone operator is one of the "three highest-conviction buy ideas for the month ahead," UBS AG wrote in a report Wednesday.
US stocks failed to extend Tuesday's rally after a report showed slowing jobs growth and oil prices climbed. AT&T Inc., American Express Co. and Citigroup Inc. led a retreat in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index a day after the benchmark posted its best gain since July. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was little changed, while American Eagle Outfitters Inc. slid the most in seven months and pushed the Nasdaq Composite Index to its fourth drop in five days.
The S&P 500 slipped 1.44, or 0.1%, to 1,393.97 midday while the Dow average decreased 2.09 to 12,205.50 and the Nasdaq dropped 8.65, or 0.4%, to 2,376.49.
European stocks advanced for a second day. The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index added 0.6% to 361.82 at 4:30 p.m. in London. The Euro Stoxx 50, a measure for the 13 nations sharing the euro, gained 0.4% and the Stoxx 50 rose 0.3%. National benchmarks advanced in 16 of the 18 western European markets. France's CAC 40 rose 0.4% as did Germany's DAX, while the UK's FTSE 100 Index rose 0.3% percent, to 6,156.
Asian shares advanced as concern eased that last week's stock-market rout will resume. China, Malaysia and the Philippines posted the region's biggest gains, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index advanced after the government reported that the economy grew twice as fast as economists forecast in the fourth quarter. The Morgan Stanley Capital International Asia-Pacific Index climbed 0.1% to 140.88 as of 4:33 p.m. in Tokyo. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average closed down 0.5% at 16,764, reversing an advance, while the broader Topex index dropped 0.2%.
Oil futures rose after the US government reported an unexpected decline in inventories and a drop in imports to the lowest in 17 months. Crude oil for April delivery rose 98 cents, or 1.6%, to $61.67 a barrel in early afternoon trade on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Gold futures for April delivery rose $3.50 or 0.5 percent, to $649.70 an ounce in late morning trade on the Comex division of the NYMEX.