Global issues, not budget, likely to impact stocks

The original budget framework, the largest in the nation's history at NIS 312 billion, was presented last week by Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On.

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange will not be seriously affected by the passing of, or rejection of, the state budget, predicted market analysts, who agreed that the TASE is much more of a global, rather than local, player. "The world turmoil is a much bigger issue than the cabinet budget vote," Leader Capital Markets said in a note to clients Sunday. "Wall Street is much more of the focus right now, but if things do simmer down globally, then domestic policies will have more of an affect on the local market." The original budget framework, the largest in the nation's history at NIS 312 billion, was presented last week by Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On. While it is widely expected to be approved by the cabinet, the real struggle will come when it is presented to the Knesset plenum for approval. "The real question is not whether it will be passed by the cabinet - it will be surprising if it is not, but we may see some affect on the market when the budget comes before the Knesset, because there it will face a real fight," said Michael Sarel, head of the Economics and Research Department at Harel Insurance Investments. "If when it comes before the Knesset, the coalition is not strong enough to pass the budget, then we will probably see a negative affect on the market, however in terms of the cabinet vote, I don't expect it to have any affect," Sarel added. Ira Slomowitz, a trader at Excellence Nessuah, noted that the recent slide in the world credit market has been determining Israelis' trading habits over the last few weeks, not domestic policies. "We are seeing a lot of people being overly cautious as the credit market has put a lot of fear into people - the problem right now is more of a Wall Street than Main Street issue, but the fear is that this will reverse itself - this is what is having the most affect, rather than any domestic policies," he said. According to Leader, however, the cabinet's budget decision will not go totally unfelt in the local market. "The presumption that the government will pass the budget is definitely a positive thing as any uncertainty about the Finance Ministry's fiscal policy will be put to rest. We weren't sure if the government was actually going to limit spending according to what was stipulated in last week's budget presentation, but passing the budget shows that the government is serious about spending limitations - this will prove to be a positive development for the market." Meanwhile, ahead of the cabinet budget vote, Uriel Lynn, president of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, said on Sunday that the government needs to set realistic goals for itself in order to add more citizens to the country's work force. "The government needs to create 90,000 new jobs next year," said Lynn. "This is a realistic figure and it is one that will help us close the gaps between Israel and OECD countries." Today, noted the FICC, for those aged 15-65, work force participation in Israel stands at 62.4 percent, while the OECD (Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation) level is 71.7%. "We must work to close this gap, and this should be the ultimate economic goal of the government as they consider the 2008 budget," Lynn said.