TA-25 declines, led by Makhteshim Agan; Cellcom climbs

Israeli stocks fell for the first time in three days Tuesday, paced by Makhteshim Agan Industries Ltd., the world's largest maker of generic agrochemicals.

SHARES TEL AVIV Israeli stocks fell for the first time in three days Tuesday, paced by Makhteshim Agan Industries Ltd., the world's largest maker of generic agrochemicals. The TA-25 Index lost 0.6 percent, to 1,081.40, at the close in Tel Aviv. Investors traded about NIS 1.24 billion of shares and convertibles. Makhteshim, which reported second-quarter earnings Tuesday, dropped NIS 0.42, or 1.3%, to NIS 30.83. Operating profit reached 16.1% of sales in the quarter, the company said. Gross and operating margins turned out "lower than we were looking for," Leader & Co. Ltd. wrote in an e-mailed report to investors. "Seems that efficiency efforts will come into play in later quarters." Cellcom Israel Ltd. gained NIS 3.70, or 3.3%, to NIS 107.40, the biggest daily gain in a month. Israel's largest wireless phone provider said second-quarter profit climbed 48% to NIS 212 million as subscribers used their phones more and the company cut costs. Internet Gold Ltd. jumped NIS 2.15, or 4.5%, to NIS 49.90. The company that serves a quarter of Israel's Internet users said net income climbed to NIS 22.5m. in the second quarter from NIS 6.8m. a year ago, according to a statement distributed by PRNewswire. Nice Systems Ltd. added NIS 1.70, or 1.2%, to NIS 142.50. The maker of digital recording systems will "benefit from solid business momentum and come with compelling valuation," Daniel Meron, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, wrote in a report to investors. Nice has "best ideas for high quality, good upside potential and low risk," the analyst added. Orckit Communications Ltd. gained NIS 0.71, or 2.1%, to NIS 35.35 after the maker of telecommunications equipment said an arbitration panel in New York has issued an interim ruling granting Orckit $12m. in damages from Conexant Systems Inc. WALL STREET Stocks declined after Wal-Mart Stores Inc. lowered its earnings forecast, spurring concern that the housing slump will keep consumers from spending. Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, tumbled the most since 2002 after CEO H. Lee Scott said Americans face "difficult pressure economically." Home Depot Inc., the largest home-improvement retailer, slipped after saying annual profit may drop as much as 15%. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index retreated 14.19, or 1%, to 1,438.73 during late morning trading in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 125.02, or 0.9%, to 13,111.51 and the Nasdaq Composite Index decreased 20.73, or 0.8%, to 2,521.51. Consumer stocks posted the biggest retreat among 10 industry groups in the S&P 500, bringing their 2007 loss to 6%. Only financial stocks have fallen more this year, on concern widening losses in subprime mortgages will spread and slow economic growth. EUROPE Stocks fell, led by financial-services companies after UBS AG said profit growth may slow and bank shares declined in the US and Asia. The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index sank 1.3% to 366.18 at 4:30 p.m. in London as all the 18 industry groups dropped. The Stoxx 50 lost 1.5%, as did the Euro Stoxx 50, a measure for the euro region. Australia's Rams Home Loans Group Ltd. said today the shakeout in global debt markets may reduce profit. Ratings company DBRS said 17 Canadian asset-backed commercial paper issuers, including Coventree Inc., are seeking back-up financing from banks after failing to sell their short-term debt. National benchmarks fell in all 18 Western European markets except Greece. France's CAC 40 decreased 1.8% and Germany's DAX dropped 0.6% while the UK's FTSE 100 slid 1.3% to 6,139.60. ASIA Financial stocks fell after Australian mortgage lender Rams Home Loans Group Ltd. said "unprecedented disruptions" in credit markets may reduce its profit. China's CSI 300 Index rose 1.6% to a record after Chinese retail sales grew at the fastest pace in three years. The Morgan Stanley Capital International Asia-Pacific Index declined 0.2% to 149.05 at 7:31 p.m. in Tokyo. The MSCI Asia-Pacific Financials Index dropped 0.8%, the second-biggest drag on the benchmark. South Korea's Kospi index slid 1.7%. Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average gained 0.3% to 16,844.61. Mitsui & Co. led Japanese trading companies higher as investors judged recent losses excessive. All other markets dropped, except Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. Pakistan was closed for a holiday. CURRENCY The shekel weakened to a Bank of Israel fixing of 4.2220 per dollar from 4.2140 late Monday. The dollar maintained gains against its major rivals after data about higher producer prices and a narrowing trade deficit came in better than expectations. The dollar was up 0.1% against the yen at 118.39 yen. The euro was down 0.2% at $1.3579, while the British pound was off 0.5% at $2.0001 COMMODITIES Crude-oil futures rose, supported in part by worries over the impact of a potential tropical depression taking shape near the Gulf of Mexico. Crude oil for September delivery gained 31 cents at $71.93 a barrel during morning trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold futures edged lower Tuesday, as gains in the dollar weighed on the precious metal. Gold for December delivery fell $2 at $678.90 an ounce on the NYMEX.