Makhteshim-Agan leaps on broker call

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange's benchmark TA-25 index rose 0.6 percent to stand at 945.86.

MarketWatch: In-depth global business coverage SHARES TEL AVIV Stocks finished higher Wednesday in a session marked by the TA-100 index setting a record high and Makhteshim-Agan shares leaping after an analyst issued a "buy" rating. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange's benchmark TA-25 index rose 0.6 percent to stand at 945.86, while the TA-100 index advanced 0.6%, to 949.72, edging past its previous record of 948.77 set December 18. The Tel-Tech index of 15 top technology shares slipped 0.03% to 373.54. The world's No. 1 producer of generic agrichemicals, Makhteshim-Agan, was the most-active issue, trading up 3.9% a NIS 24.72 after Citigroup analyst Andrew Benson opened coverage on the shares with a "buy" rating and a NIS 32 price target. Also up among the blue chips was Ormat Industries, rising 2% to NIS 49.39. The company's Ormat Technologies unit said Tuesday that it received $20 million in contracts to build a power plant in New Zealand. Bank Hapoalim rose 1.7% to NIS 20.46. Decliners included foods producer Strauss-Elite, whose shares traded down 1.5% at NIS 44.65, and Nice Systems, the producer of digital recording and archiving solutions, down 2.1% at NIS 128.2. Within the Tel-Tech, defense contractors rose: Elbit Systems gained by 1.3% to NIS 144.9 and Tadiran Communications added 1.6% to NIS 172.3. Pulling in the other direction were electronic-payments-solution provider Verifone, off 0.2% at NIS 151.3, and Radware, a producer of networking solutions, down 1% at NIS 67.29. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv's real estate measure rose just under 0.1% to 682.96 after having been up as much as 0.9%. One notable mover was Jerusalem Economic, trading up 0.9% to NIS 64.14. The company said a 36%-held affiliate and a partner would invest as much as $330m. to buy agricultural land in Thane, north of Mumbai, India. The investors will try to change the target use of the land to residential, industrial, hi-tech and offices. Moving 1.2% lower were shares of Gazit-Globe, down to NIS 57.76, while Gav Yam added 1.2%, to NIS 973.2. WALL STREET US stocks turned mixed Wednesday afternoon, erasing sharp gains made earlier in the session, after minutes from the last Federal Reserve policy meeting indicated that concerns over economic growth may be increasing. The Dow industrials was down 30 points, or 0.3%, to 12,433, but was 101 points below the all-time high of 12,580.35 it reached earlier in the session. The Nasdaq Composite was down 19 points, or 0.8%, at 2,396 and the S&P 500 Index fell 8 points, or 0.6%, to 1,410, off their respective intraday peaks of 2,454.62 and 1,429.42. EUROPE European shares traded in a tight range, with markets trading near six-year highs. The French CAC-40 index eased 0.1% at 5,610.92, while the UK's FTSE 100 index closed 0.1% higher at 6,319.00 and the German DAX Xetra 30 index added 0.1% to 6,691.32. The pan-European Dow Jones Stoxx 600 index edged down a fraction of a point to 369.84. ASIA Share indexes in Hong Kong and Singapore ended at record highs as investors added to positions in the belief that last year's bull market has further to run in 2007. However, Thailand's benchmark SET Index tumbled as much as 3.8% as trading resumed for the first time since Bangkok was rocked by a series of bombs on New Year's Eve. The Thai market, along with much of the region, was shut on Monday and Tuesday for New Year holidays. Japan's stock exchanges remained closed for national holidays. They are scheduled to reopen Thursday. Financial markets in China are also closed for a holiday and will reopen Thursday. Among those bourses trading on Wednesday, Singapore's Straits Times Index rose 1.7% to 3,037.74, breaching the 3,000-point level for the first time, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended 0.5% higher, rising 103 points to a record 20,413.99. CURRENCY The dollar was quoted at 119.64 yen, compared with 118.79 late Tuesday. The euro stood at $1.3163, compared with $1.3287. COMMODITIES Crude oil fell sharply, losing $2.57, or 4.2%, to $58.48 in afternoon trade as warmer-than-usual temperatures kept pressure on energy prices. Gold fell amid dollar strength, with the February contract losing $7.30 to $630.70 an ounce. MarketWatch: In-depth global business coverage