Makhteshim leads TA-25 lower after earnings

Israel's main stock index dropped for the first time in four days, led by Makhteshim Agan Industries Ltd., the world's largest maker of generic agrochemicals.

SHARES TEL AVIV Israel's main stock index dropped for the first time in four days, led by Makhteshim Agan Industries Ltd., the world's largest maker of generic agrochemicals. The TA-25 Stock Index lost 4.39, or 0.5 percent, to 973.59, as 19 stocks fell and six advanced. Investors bought and sold about NIS 1.3b. in shares and convertibles. Makhteshim tumbled NIS 0.63, or 2.5%, to NIS 25.01. The Tel Aviv-based company posted a fourth-quarter loss as it took charges for a lawsuit and cutting jobs. Makhteshim had a net loss of $38.5 million, compared with a $47m. profit a year earlier. Bezeq Ltd. declined NIS 0.10, or 1.6%, to NIS 6.39. The Israel Securities Authority has sought additional clarifications before making a ruling on an options plan the country's biggest telecommunications company is offering executives. Bank Hapoalim Ltd. lost NIS 0.21, or 1.1%, to NIS 19.15. AllianceBernstein Holding LP, the bank's biggest foreign shareholder, sold 8.7 million shares on Tuesday, the Tel Aviv-based bank said in a statement to the stock exchange. Orckit Communications Ltd. rallied NIS 4.67, or 9.9%, to NIS 51.65. The maker of telecommunications equipment is close to signing a contract valued at tens of millions of dollars with an unidentified company, Ma'ariv said, without citing anyone. An Orckit spokesman, who didn't want to be identified, declined to comment on the report. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., the world's largest generic-drugs maker, declined NIS 1.90, or 1.2%, to NIS 151.50. Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd., India's biggest maker of generic drugs, offered to buy Merck KGaA's generic unit. Teva said last month that it was eyeing a bid for the German drugmaker's subsidiary, according to people familiar with the transaction. WALL STREET US stocks fell, erasing a three-day rally, after a report showed the home lending crisis is expanding from the riskiest borrowers to Americans with better credit histories. The Mortgage Bankers Association said delinquencies among all borrowers reached the highest since the second quarter of 2003. The S&P 500 slid 24.97, or 1.8%, to 1,381.63 in afternoon trade while the Dow Jones Industrial Average sank 214.70, or 1.7%, to 12,103.92 and the Nasdaq Composite Index retreated 45.54, or 1.9%, to 2,356.75. EUROPE European stocks fell for a second day after the US report. The Stoxx 600 fell 1.1% to 361.56 at the close in London. The Stoxx 50 lost 1.2%, while the Euro Stoxx 50, a measure for the 13 nations sharing the euro, slid 1.2%. National benchmarks dropped in all 18 western European markets. France's CAC 40 sank 1.2%, while Germany's DAX slid 1.4% and the UK's FTSE 100 stumbled 1.2% to 6,161.2. ASIA Asian stocks snapped a week-long rally. The Morgan Stanley Capital International Asia-Pacific Index lost 0.4% to 143.81 at 8:02 p.m. in Tokyo. It had gained 4.4% in the past week. Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average dropped 0.7% to 17,178.84. Markets also fell in Australia, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. CURRENCY The yen rallied across the board amid fears of fallout from t he US subprime lending market. In New York trading, the dollar was quoted at 116.43 yen, compared with 117.64 late Monday. The euro stood at $1.3209, compared with $1.3189. COMMODITIES Crude oil for April delivery was down $1.11, or 1.9%, to $57.80 a barrel in afternoon trade on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold futures for April delivery closed down 90 cents at $649.40 an ounce on the Comex division of the NYMEX.(News Agencies)