Stocks, including Leumi, up; Cellcom, Partner down

The TA-25 Index added 0.48, or less than 0.1%, to 1,224.57.

SHARES TEL AVIV Israeli stocks, including Bank Leumi Le-Israel Ltd., the country's largest lender, advanced on Tuesday. Cellcom Israel Ltd. and Partner Communications Ltd. led declining stocks. The TA-25 Index added 0.48, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,224.57. Investors traded about NIS 2.05 billion in shares and convertible securities. Leumi increased NIS 0.23, or 1.3%, to NIS 18.16. The company plans to pay a NIS 1.4b. dividend next year after lending income rose and the bank cut provisions for bad debt. Cellcom, Israel's largest mobile-phone company, dropped NIS 4.80, or 3.6%, to NIS 129. Partner, the nation's second largest, lost NIS 2.61, or 3.1%, to NIS 82.20. Partner said late Tuesday that it was the second cellular operator named in a petition with Cellcom which requests that the High Court of Justice order the Communications Ministry to apply new, lower tariff rates retroactively. 012 Smile Communications Ltd. gained NIS 1.62, or 3.2%, to NIS 52.64. CIBC World Markets Inc. rated the Internet and international call company "outperform" in new coverage. Aladdin Knowledge Systems Ltd. rose NIS 1.30, or 1.3%, to NIS 103.70. The computer security company said it would sell its authentication software to Continental Airlines and Oregon's largest public utility company, Eugene Water & Electric Board. Nice Systems Ltd. rose NIS 1.10, or 0.9%, to NIS 124.50. The maker of digital-recording surveillance products said it won a follow-on "multimillion dollar" order from an Asian bank it didn't identify. Paz Oil Ltd. declined 16.10 shekels, or 2.9%, to NIS 532.60. Israel's largest energy company may report millions of shekels in losses after a fluid catalytic cracker broke down at its Ashdod refinery, the Globes said, citing unidentified industry officials. Perrigo Co. jumped NIS 8.30, or 6.8%, NIS to 130. The biggest US maker of non-prescription store-branded medicines raised its 2008 profit forecast after its unit received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration to sell a heartburn treatment. WALL STREET Ahead of the Federal Reserve interest rate decision, stocks rose after AT&T Inc. said it plans to buy back up to $15.2b. of shares and investors boosted bets the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates by 0.5 percentage point. AT&T, the largest US phone company, rallied the most since July 2006 after also raising its dividend by 13%. Exxon Mobil Corp. led energy producers to their highest level in a month after oil rose on prospects of lower borrowing costs. The Standard and Poor's 500 Index added 1.44, or 0.1%, to 1,517.4 during morning trading in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 5.61 to 13,732.64. The Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 8.77, or 0.3%, to 2,727.72. Six stocks rose for every five that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. EUROPE Stocks dropped for the first time in five days after a report showed investor confidence in Germany fell to the lowest in almost 15 years. The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index lost 0.4% to 373.55 at the close in London. Germany's DAX slipped 0.3%, while national benchmarks retreated in 13 of 18 western European Markets. France's CAC 40 fell 0.5% and the UK's FTSE 100 lost 0.4% 6,536.9. The Stoxx 50 decreased 0.6%. The Euro Stoxx 50, a measure for the euro region, lost 0.4%. ASIA Asian stocks advanced, led by HSBC Holdings Plc and BHP Billiton Ltd., on speculation lower interest rates will bolster growth in the world's largest economy. Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd. led gains among Hong Kong developers on expectation the city's banks will match any cut in rates by the US Federal Reserve Tuesday, fueling demand for real estate. Kookmin Bank paced financial shares higher after UBS AG and Washington Mutual Inc. agreed to sell stakes to investors. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.9% to 165.02 as of 7:25 p.m. in Tokyo, after retreating Monday for the first time in four days. Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose 0.8% to 16,044.72, while India's Sensitive Index closed above 20,000 for the first time. Benchmarks advanced in other markets open for trading, except for New Zealand, the Philippines and Thailand. China Merchants Bank Co. led a decline among the country's lenders on concern accelerating inflation will prompt the central bank to raise interest rates to cool the economy. CURRENCY The shekel fell as much as 0.7% to 3.9367 per dollar, from 3.9110 Monday, and last traded at 3.9197. The shekel was the worst performer in the past five days in Europe, Middle East and Africa, according to Bloomberg data. The dollar fell from a one-month high against the yen on speculation the Federal Reserve will lower its benchmark interest rate amid a slowdown in the world's biggest economy. Traders increased bets Tuesday that the Fed will cut its key rate by as much as a half-percentage point to 4%, double the reduction most analysts forecast. "The Fed is going to do what they need to do to prevent the economy from falling off," said Matthew Strauss, a senior currency strategist in Toronto at RBC Capital Markets Inc. "There is a lot of uncertainty about credit markets and whether the broader economy can withstand the impact. This will drive investors away from dollar assets and put pressure on the currency." The US currency dropped to 111.57 yen during the morning session in New York from 111.71 late Monday, after earlier touching 112.14, the strongest since November 9. The dollar traded at $1.4708 per euro from $1.4712. The dollar fell to a record low of $1.4967 per euro on November 23 and has lost 10% this year. COMMODITIES Crude oil rose more than $1 a barrel during morning action in New York on speculation that the US Federal Reserve will lower interest rates to prevent the world's biggest energy consumer from sliding into recession. Crude oil for January delivery rose $1.25, or 1.4%, to $89.11 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures reached $99.29 on November 21, the highest since trading began in 1983. Prices are up 45% from a year ago. Gold, little changed Tuesday, may rise on expectations that a third cut in US interest rates this year will erode the dollar and boost the appeal of the precious metal as an alternative investment. Gold futures for February delivery rose 20 cents to $813.70 an ounce on the Comex division of the NYMEX. The metal rose 1.7% Monday, the most in two weeks.