Banks send Israeli stocks sliding

The benchmark TA-25 Index lost 0.3 percent to 922.02 in Tel Aviv.

SHARES TEL AVIV Israeli stocks fell for the first time in three days on Tuesday. Bank Leumi Le-Israel Ltd. and Bank Hapoalim Ltd. led declines on concern that earnings growth in the financial industry would slow. The benchmark TA-25 Index lost 0.3 percent to 922.02 in Tel Aviv. Investors bought and sold about NIS 1.2 billion in shares and convertibles, 14% less than the daily average in the first 10 months of 2006. Bank Leumi, the country's second-largest lender, fell 1.5% to NIS 16.87. The lender will probably say tomorrow that third-quarter profit dropped 37% to NIS 522m. according to the median estimate of four analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News. Bank Hapoalim, the biggest lender, slid 1.4% to NIS 20.81. Mizrahi Tefahot Bank Ltd., the third largest, dropped 2.7% to NIS 30.58. "There's concern that Leumi's earnings will be less positive this quarter," said Daniel Rapoport, a trader at Leader & Co. in Tel Aviv. "This is pulling the other banks down." Elbit Medical Imaging Ltd. lost 2.1% to NIS 127.10. The medical-electronics firm turned property developer said Monday it had a net loss of NIS 7.9m. in the third quarter compared with an income of NIS 78.7m. a year earlier. Koor Industries Ltd. rose 1.6% to NIS 224.40. The holding company with interests in agrochemicals and telecommunications gear said it would post capital gain of about $8.9 million in the fourth quarter from Neustar Inc.'s acquisition of Followap Inc. Pilat Technologies International Ltd. rose 2.3% to NIS 1.27. The software maker said third-quarter profit more than tripled, helped by higher sales in North America. Retalix Ltd. fell 2% to NIS 71.97. The maker of software used by grocery chains said it posted a third-quarter loss after the signing of expected contracts was delayed. WALL STREET US stocks resumed their decline amid an increase in oil prices and a drop in durable-goods orders. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index slipped 0.1% to 1380.11 during morning trade in New York. The S&P 500 briefly erased its loss after a report showed existing home sales unexpectedly increased in October. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.1% at 12,109.53. The Nasdaq Composite Index lost 0.5% to 2394.84. EUROPE European stocks fell, sending the Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index on its longest losing streak in 15 months, as a slumping dollar and a drop in orders for US-made durable goods magnified concern global economic growth is slowing. The Stoxx 600 lost 0.3% to 349.54, for a decline of 2.9% in the past five days. The Stoxx 50 slipped 0.1% as did the Euro Stoxx 50, a measure for the 12 nations sharing the euro. National benchmarks retreated in 15 of western Europe's 18 markets. Germany's DAX Index slid 0.3%, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index lost 0.4% to 6,025.90 and France's CAC 40 slipped less than 0.1%. ASIA Asian stocks fell, led by Honda Motor Co., on concern sales are slowing in the US and Japan. Li & Fung Ltd., a clothing supplier to American retailers, contributed to the Hang Seng Index's biggest points decline since the September 11 terrorist attacks. The Morgan Stanley Capital International Asia-Pacific Index dropped 0.8% to 132.14 in late trade in Tokyo. Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average slipped 0.2% to 15,855.26. CURRENCIES The dollar fell to a 20-month low against the euro Tuesday after a government report showed demand for US-made durable goods declined much more than forecast last month. But the US currency pared losses versus the euro and edged slightly higher versus the yen after data showed an unexpected increase in sales of existing US homes in October and a solid reading on the Richmond Fed manufacturing index. In New York trading, the dollar was quoted at 116.18 yen, compared with 116.05 yen late Monday. The euro changed hands at $1.3155, after touching $1.3179, the highest level since March 22, 2005. The British pound traded at $1.9471, compared with $1.9374, after rising as high as $1.9505, a two-year high. The euro fetched 152.84 yen, compared with 152.43 yen, after touching 153.01 yen, a record high. COMMODITIES ENERGY Crude oil rose to a two-week high on forecasts that most of the US will be colder than normal next week as an Arctic air mass moves in from Canada. Crude oil for January delivery rose 0.9% to $60.87 a barrel at midday trade on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures touched $61.20, the highest since November 9. Prices are up 6.2% from a year ago. The January contract has traded in a range of $57.80 to $63.70 since Oct. 3. COMMODITIES Gold prices in New York dropped from an 11-week high on speculation a slowing US economy will reduce demand for the precious metal. Gold futures for February delivery fell $4.10, or 0.6%, to $643 an ounce at late morning trade Tuesday on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.