Shekel continues to fall

The currency has declined 7.5% since the central bank's decision to boost its foreign reserves and buy dollars.

Henry Paulson 88 224 (photo credit: )
Henry Paulson 88 224
(photo credit: )
SHARES TEL AVIV The Tel Aviv-25 Index pared some of Sunday's 1.5 percent gain, losing 1.51, or 0.1%, to 1,053.28 as 16 stocks declined and nine rose. Investors traded about NIS 2 billion in shares and convertible securities. Trading at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange resumed at 1:30 p.m. after a labor dispute forced a three-and-a-half hour suspension. Avgol Industries fell 1.3%. The maker of fabrics used in diapers and hospital uniforms said it had completed due diligence on a possible takeover for Fiberweb. Avgol expects the acquisition to be funded by $400 million of loans "provided by non-Israeli banks and Israeli institutional investors" and $200m. of mezzanine financing, it said. El Al Israel Airlines declined 1.6%. El Al and Alitalia reportedly will face a new competitor on flights between Israel and Italy, after the two countries agreed to allow a third airline to fly the routes. Israel Chemicals climbed 4.4%. Lehman Brothers Holdings raised its share-price estimate for the company that extracts minerals from the Dead Sea to make fertilizers by 13%. Koor Industries jumped 4.6%. The holding company with interests in agrochemicals and telecommunications was upgraded to "market outperform" from "market perform" at Psagot Investment House. WALL STREET Wall Street advanced following reports of potential corporate deals - including news that Washington Mutual Inc. might get a $5b. investment from private equity firms. The Dow Jones industrial average at times rose more than 100 points. Washington Mutual, the nation's largest thrift, reportedly is in talks with buyout shop TPG Inc. and other investors about selling a stake in itself in return for cash. The company, which has suffered big losses tied to subprime mortgages, would become the latest US financial institution to reach such a deal. In early afternoon trading, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 98.68, or 0.78%, to 12,708.10. Broader stock indicators also advanced. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 12.96, or 0.95%, to 1,383.36, and the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 12.56, or 0.53%, to 2,383.54. Washington Mutual shot up 30%. In other deal-making news, Microsoft Corp. gave Yahoo Inc. a three-week deadline to agree to a takeover, or, Microsoft said, it would launch a proxy fight for control of the company. Swiss pharmaceutical maker Novartis AG said it would spend about $38b. in a two-step bid for a majority stake in US eye-care company Alcon Inc. EUROPE European stocks rose for a second day as companies announced more than $14b. of mergers and acquisitions, Merrill Lynch & Co. said the worst of the credit markets' turmoil was over and Goldman Sachs Group advised buying mining shares. Nestle climbed to the highest since January in Zurich after Novartis agreed to buy a 25% stake in its eye-care unit. UBS, Europe's biggest bank by assets, rallied to a five-week high after Merrill upgraded the stock. Anglo American jumped for a fourth day as Goldman added the world's second-biggest mining company to its "conviction buy" list. The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index added 0.9% to 322.01, extending its biggest weekly gain in a year after plans by UBS and Lehman Brothers Holdings last week to replenish capital helped fuel expectations credit losses will be contained. National Indexes National indexes rose in all 18 western European markets. The UK's FTSE 100 added 1.1% to 6,014.8. Germany's DAX Index gained 0.9%, as did France's CAC 40. Europe's Stoxx 50 rose 0.9%, as did the Euro Stoxx 50, a measure for the euro region. ASIA Most Asian markets rose as investors seemingly ignored worries about weak US jobs data to buy Japanese trading houses, Chinese insurers and Indian banks. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index rose 1.2% to 13,450.2, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1.3% to 24,578.8. Commodity-related shares were the notable gainers in Tokyo after gold and oil prices rose. Elsewhere in Asia, indices rose in India, Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan. CURRENCIES The shekel fell to the lowest in a month, dropping as much as 1% to 3.6523 per dollar. It was at 3.6410 at 6:05 p.m. in Tel Aviv. The currency has declined 7.5% since the central bank's March 20 decision to boost its foreign reserves and buy dollars. The dollar strengthened 0.2% to $1.5702 per euro, from $1.5737. COMMODITIES Crude oil prices climbed more than $2 per barrel on the back of expectations that the Federal Reserve will continue cutting interest rates. The rally in crude helped pull retail gasoline prices into record territory. Light, sweet crude rose $2.85 to $109.08 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The gains in crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange were also supported by comments from OPEC suggesting the cartel plans no production increases.