Bezeq leads TA-25 higher; shekel rebounds

Investors traded about NIS 1.79 billion in shares and convertible securities.

SHARES TEL AVIV Israeli stocks rose for the first day in four on Tuesday, led by Bezeq Ltd., after Clal Finance Batucha Investment Management Ltd. raised its recommendation on the shares of Israel's biggest telecommunications company. The TA-25 Index added 3.81, or 0.3 percent, to 1184.65 at the close in Tel Aviv. Investors traded about NIS 1.79 billion in shares and convertible securities. Bezeq gained NIS 0.09, or 1.3%, to NIS 7.26, after Clal upgraded its shares to "market outperform" from "market perform," saying the government's number-portability plan wouldn't hurt the company as much as previously forecast. Subscribers are now allowed to take their phone numbers with them under a new rule that came into effect December 1. Bezeq's shares will probably trade at NIS 8.3 in the next 12 months, up from a previous estimate of NIS 7.5, Clal Finance said. Delek Group Ltd., the holding company with stakes in energy, real estate and financial institutions, increased NIS 8.10, or 0.9%, to NIS 867. Citigroup Global Markets raised its recommendation on the shares of Delek US Holdings Inc., the subsidiary of Delek Group, to "buy" from "hold." Delek Real Estate Ltd. advanced NIS 0.49, or 2.3%, to NIS 22. The property owner said it converted NIS 205m. in bonds it held in Vitnia Ltd. into a 50% stake in the company. Israel Chemicals Ltd., the company that extracts minerals from the Dead Sea to make fertilizers, gained NIS 1.54, or 3.4%, to NIS 47.44. OAO Uralkali, the Russian potash maker owned by billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, was rated a "buy" in new coverage by UBS AG. Makhteshim Agan Industries Ltd., the world's largest maker of generic agrochemicals, increased NIS 0.60, or 1.8%, to NIS 33.70 after Monsanto Co. raised prices for its Roundup herbicides by between $5 to $8 a gallon. Generic Glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in Roundup, is Makhteshim's largest single-selling product and accounts for about 10% of sales, Tel Aviv-based analyst Haim Israel of Merrill Lynch & Co. wrote in a report Tuesday. WALL STREET Stocks climbed for the first time in three days, led by computer companies and energy producers, after Adobe Systems Inc. forecast profit above analysts' estimates and the price of oil gained. The split performance came on a day when the European Central Bank allotted $501b. to banks - demonstrating central bank resolve to tackle the credit crisis but also the scope of the problems that plagued the sector in the first place. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 3.29, or 0.2%, to 1,449.19 late morning in New York while the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 25.52, or 0.2%, to 13,192.72 and the Nasdaq Composite Index increased 6.97, or 0.3%, to 2,581.43. EUROPE Shares in Europe ended virtually flat on Tuesday, with automakers staging a bit of a recovery but profit taking seen in the technology and defensive sectors, led by a brokerage downgrade of food giant Nestle. The pan-European Dow Jones Stoxx 600 index closed with a loss of 0.1% to 360.42. While automakers like Porsche, up 3%, saw some pep, recent safe-haven plays saw a drop. Swiss food group Nestle ended 2.8% lower after it was downgraded to neutral from buy at UBS. The stock had gained 24% this year. Of regional indexes, the UK FTSE 100 index was up a fraction of a percentage point at 6,279.30, the German DAX 30 index increased 0.3% while the French CAC-40 index ended 0.1%. ASIA Stocks fell for a fifth day, led by consumer electronics and natural resources companies, on concern the US housing slump will derail growth in the region's biggest export market. Nintendo Co., the world's biggest maker of handheld game players, and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. paced losses in Japan. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 0.2% to 152.04 at 7:09 p.m. in Tokyo, after dropping as much as 1.1% and climbing as much as 0.3%. Most Asian benchmarks slid. South Korea's Kospi index gained 1.2 percent, the most in the region, ahead of the nation's presidential election Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average declined 0.3% to 15,207.86. CURRENCY The shekel rose by the most in almost a month, strengthening as much as 1.7% against the dollar, to 3.9341, from 4.0011 Monday. It was at 3.9510 in late trade. "It's recovering a bit from movement of the last few days," said Sagie Poznerson, a bond trader at Tel Aviv-based Leader & Co. "The shekel's strengthening and the TA-25 is rising in line with overseas markets. The level of bonds is pretty attractive now, so it's drawing buyers." The yen fell against the dollar and euro after the European Central Bank added a record $500b. to the banking system, encouraging investors to borrow in Japan to buy higher-yielding assets elsewhere. Japan's yen weakened versus 12 of the 16 most actively traded currencies, dropping the most against the Brazilian real and the Australian dollar. The yen dropped to 113.29 against the dollar in morning trade in New York, from 112.95 Monday. It fell against the euro to 163.07, from 162.64. The dollar was little changed at $1.4395 per euro. COMMODITIES Crude oil fell amid speculation that warmer weather in the eastern US will curb fuel consumption next week. The National Weather Service forecast higher-than-normal temperatures in a six-to-10 day period in the Northeast, the region responsible for about 80% of US residential consumption of heating oil. Prices rose earlier Tuesday on an Iraqi announcement that Turkish forces had entered northern Iraq. Crude oil for January delivery fell 62 cents, or 0.7%, to $90.01 a barrel during late morning trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold rose for the second straight day on speculation energy and food costs will accelerate, boosting the appeal of the metal as a hedge against inflation. Gold futures for February delivery rose $6.60, or 0.8%, to $805.90 an ounce on the Comex division of the NYMEX, after earlier rising to $811.40.