Hapoalim, Leumi lead Tel Aviv stocks to gain 1.7%

Oil Refineries Ltd., Israel's biggest petroleum producer, increased for the first time in five days.

Shares TEL AVIV Israel's benchmark TA-25 Index rose to the highest in six weeks, adding 17.67, or 1.7 percent, to 1,080.23 at the close, as 21 shares advanced, three fell and one was unchanged. Investors traded about NIS 2.49 b. in shares and convertible securities. Bank Hapoalim Ltd., Israel's largest bank by assets, climbed for a second day, increasing NIS 0.37, or 2.7%, to 13.95. Bank Leumi Le-Israel Ltd., Israel's second-biggest bank, gained the most in almost two weeks, advancing NIS 0.32, or 2%, to 16.49. Oil Refineries Ltd., Israel's biggest petroleum producer, increased for the first time in five days, rising NIS 0.10, or 3.2%, to NIS 3.21. Oil rose to a record in New York for a second day after a US government report showed an unexpected decline in supplies. WALL STREET US stocks rose the most in two weeks as better-than-forecast profits from Intel Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. eased concern that the slowing economy is dragging down earnings. Intel, the largest chipmaker, rallied the most since January after saying 79% of first-quarter sales came from Asia and Europe. JPMorgan, the third-biggest US bank, advanced after Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said the credit-market crisis is nearing an end. Wells Fargo climbed as the biggest West Coast bank limited losses from slumping California home prices. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index added 19.17, or 1.4%, to 1,353.6 in morning trading in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 176.36 by morning, or 1.4%, to 12,538.83. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 48.09, or 2.1%, to 2,334.13. Six stocks gained for each that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Nucor Corp. led steelmakers in the Russell 3000 index to a 4.7% gain as all 13 companies in the group advanced. EUROPE European stocks rose for a second day, led by semiconductor makers and mining companies, after Intel Corp.'s sales forecast beat analysts' estimates and Chinese economic growth of more than 10% lifted metals prices. Infineon Technologies AG and STMicroelectronics NV gained after Intel Chief Executive Officer Paul Otellini said there were no signs of economic weakness hurting US or European sales. BHP Billiton Ltd. increased as copper, lead and nickel advanced. Deutsche Bank AG led the region's lenders to their first gain in seven days after the positive indications from US banks. The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index added 1.7% to 314.68 near closing time in London, as five stocks advanced for every one that dropped. The gauge has declined 14% this year on concern more than $245b. in losses tied to credit markets will push the US into recession. National indexes increased in all 18 western European markets today. The UK's FTSE 100 rose 1.9%, while France's CAC increased 1.6% and Germany's DAX gained 1.8%. ASIA Asian stocks advanced for a second day, led by banks and energy producers, on easing concern credit market losses will dent earnings and after crude-oil prices climbed to a record. Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. and Macquarie Group Ltd. rose after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.'s Chief Executive Officer Richard Fuld said the worst of the credit-market contraction has passed. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 1.3% to 144.71 in Tokyo, extending yesterday's 0.4% advance. It's climbed 9.4% since March 17 on speculation that the US is working to contain credit losses. All 10 of the benchmark's industry groups increased today. Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average added 1.2% to 13,146.13. Benchmarks gained in all markets open for trading, except for Hong Kong and China, which dropped to a one-year low after the economy grew more than economists forecast and inflation increased. CURRENCIES The dollar rate fell to the lowest level against the shekel in more than three weeks, trading at NIS 3.46. Traders are concerned that inflation in excess of the central bank's target range of 1-3% for a fourth month will prevent it from lowering interest rates. The dollar-shekel exchange rate dropped 2.3% in March, climbing to an 11-year low trading at 3.35. The dollar fell to a record low against the euro as European inflation accelerated last month, reducing chances the European Central Bank will follow the Federal Reserve in cutting interest rates. The currency had its biggest decline versus the euro in three weeks, weakening to $1.5979 as US housing starts dropped more than twice as much as forecast to a 17-year low. COMMODITIES Crude oil for May delivery jumped to a record $114.95 a barrel before paring gains to 38 cents, or 0.3%, to $114.17 in morning trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil climbed after the government said US supplies unexpectedly declined. Gold for June delivery rose $18.40, or 2%, to $950.40 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange as the dollar fell, increasing demand for the precious metal as a hedge against inflation. Copper for May delivery rose 14.5 cents, or 3.8%, to $4.005 a pound on Comex, the most in almost three weeks after the economy in China, the world's biggest user of the metal, expanded by 10.6% in the first quarter, signaling demand for the metal may rise. Rough rice for May delivery rose 54.5 cents, or 2.5%, to a $22.715 per 100 pounds on the Chicago Board of Trade, reaching a record $22.85 earlier as the Philippines, the world's biggest importer of the grain, sought 1 million metric tons and floods delayed planting in the US.