US stocks climb, led by technology, energy gains

The Tel Aviv-25 Index dropped for the first time in three days.

SHARES TEL AVIV The Tel Aviv-25 Index dropped for the first time in three days, falling 12.58, or 1.1 percent, to 1,088.09 at the close in Tel Aviv as 20 members declined and five gained. Investors traded about NIS 2.15 billion in shares and convertible securities. Gazit-Globe Ltd. fell to the lowest in six days, dropping NIS 0.63, or 1.9%, to NIS 33.35. The commercial real estate company's Equity One Inc. unit said 2007 net income had fallen to $69.4 million from $177m. in 2006, according to a statement on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Given Imaging Ltd. rose NIS 1.93, or 4.1%, to NIS 49.10, after retreating to the lowest on record Tuesday. The maker of the camera-in-a-capsule that diagnoses digestive ailments said it had won approval for its colon product from the Health Ministry. Israel Chemicals Ltd., which extracts minerals form the Dead Sea to make fertilizers and chemicals, climbed to the highest in more than a month, gaining NIS 0.53, or 1.1%, to NIS 49.98. Migdal Insurance Holdings Ltd. fell to the lowest in six months, dropping NIS 0.1, or 1.7%, to NIS 5.80. Clal Insurance Enterprise Holdings Ltd. declined for the first time in three days, retreating NIS 2.47, or 2.8%, to NIS 85.61. Harel Insurance Investments & Finances Ltd. declined for a second day, loosing NIS 1.90, or 1%, to NIS 192.50. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. rose for a third day, increasing NIS 1.50 shekels, or 0.9%, to NIS 172.40. WALL STREET US stocks rose, led by technology and energy shares, after Hewlett-Packard's profit topped estimates and oil climbed to a record for a second straight day. Hewlett-Packard, the biggest maker of personal computers, rallied the most in two years. Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. advanced to the highest prices in more than a month. Wells Fargo & Co. and American International Group Inc. led financial shares higher after minutes from the Federal Reserve's January meeting showed members favored low interest rates "for a time." The Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 14.43 points, or 1.1%, to 1,363.21 at 2:58 p.m. in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 125.45, or 1%, to 12,462.67. The Nasdaq Composite Index increased 25.5, or 1.1%, to 2,331.7. EUROPE European stocks fell on disappointing earnings announcements, with corporations unable to escape the effects of a slowing global economy or fallout from the recent credit crunch. Alliance & Leicester Bank, BNP Paribas and Allied Irish Banks all reported gloomy earnings. Dutch brewer Heineken also reported a fall in profits. However, ING Groep upset the trend and rose on upbeat results. The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index dropped 1.2% to 320.33. Britain's FTSE 100 Index closed 1.2% lower at 5,893.60, while France's CAC-40 Index lost 1.5% to 4,812.81. Germany's DAX Index fell 1.5% to 6,899.68. ASIA Asian markets sank Wednesday as an overnight spike in oil prices above $100 a barrel fueled concerns about accelerating inflation and higher costs for consumers and companies. Although oil prices eased back in Asian trading, the prospect of higher energy prices dampened expectations for interest rate cuts in the US and elsewhere at a time when global growth appears to be slowing. In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index fell 3.25% to 13,310.37. Shares in chemical companies and rubber makers, which rely on petrochemical compounds in their manufacturing, were among the hardest hit. CURRENCIES The shekel slipped for a fourth day, dropping to 3.6243 per dollar, from 3.6174 Tuesday. It was the fourth-worst performer among 11 emerging-market currencies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in the past five days. The dollar gained the most against the euro in almost two weeks after US inflation rose more than forecast last month, adding to speculation the Federal Reserve will be less aggressive in cutting interest rates. The dollar strengthened versus 12 of the 16 most-active currencies. The yen fell against most major currencies as US stock indexes reversed declines, increasing investors' appetite for risk. The pound fell to the lowest level in almost a month against the US currency. The dollar rose to $1.4689 per euro at 2:07 p.m. in New York, from $1.4725 Tuesday. It was the biggest one-day gain since February 7. The dollar increased to 108.21 against the yen, from 107.78. The euro bought 158.98 yen, from 158.71. The pound fell to as low as $1.9363, the weakest since January 22, from $1.9485 Tuesday, after minutes of the Bank of England's February meeting showed officials voted 8-1 to lower its main interest rate to 5.25%. COMMODITIES Oil futures fluctuated Wednesday, rising to new records above $100 but also falling as investors cashed in profits from the market's recent huge advance. The contract for March delivery of light sweet crude, which was expiring later Wednesday, rose 13 cents to $100.14 on the New York Mercantile Exchange after earlier rising as high as $100.40, a new trading record. On Tuesday, the contract jumped $4.51 to settle at a record $100.01. In precious metals, platinum prices skidded following a record-setting rally fed by an electricity shortage in South Africa, the world's largest platinum producer. Platinum for April delivery lost $25.10 to $2,128 an ounce on the Nymex, after earlier falling as low as $2,062 an ounce. Other metals traded mostly higher. Gold for April delivery traded $7.50 higher to fetch $9.37.30 an ounce on the Nymex. March silver added 20.7 cents to fetch $17.715 an ounce. Earlier, silver rose to a record $17.790 an ounce.