TA-25 Index holds steady as Israel Chemical rises

Clal Insurance Enterprise Holding Ltd. paced falling shares, while Israel Chemicals Ltd. led rising stocks.

SHARES TEL AVIV Stock prices were little changed Tuesday. Clal Insurance Enterprise Holding Ltd. paced falling shares, while Israel Chemicals Ltd. led rising stocks. The TA-25 Index lost 1.63, or 0.1 percent, to 1,124.75, as 15 shares dropped and 10 rose. Investors bought and sold about NIS 1.44 billion in shares and convertibles. Clal Insurance fell NIS 1.50, or 1.3%, to NIS 116.90. Israel Discount Bank Ltd., the country's third-largest bank, is expected to complete the sale of its provident fund unit to Clal this week for NIS 602 million, NIS 19m. less than what was agreed on in January, Globes reported, without citing anyone. A spokeswoman for the bank wouldn't comment on the news report. Israel Chemicals rose NIS 0.39, or 1.1%, to NIS 35.49. The company, which extracts minerals from the Dead Sea to make fertilizers won a $300m. contract to supply 1.1 million tons of potash. Delek Group Ltd. advanced NIS 14.50, or 1.5%, to NIS 1,009. Shares of the holding company with stakes in energy and real estate were rated "buy" with a price estimate of NIS 1,230 in new coverage at Deutsche Bank AG. WALL STREET NY shares tried for a modest rise as investor grappled with a lackluster profit report from Best Buy Co. and a confirmation that new home construction fell in May. Electronics chain Best Buy warned of an uncertain consumer spending environment and said it was lowering its fiscal 2008 profit forecast. The comments stirred concerns about flagging consumer spending. Although investors were expecting a decline in home construction, they appeared concerned about a US Commerce Department report showing construction of new homes and apartments dropped by 2.1% last month. In midday trading, the Dow rose 20.57, or 0.15%, to 13,633.55. Broader stock indicators edged higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1.36, or 0.09%, to 1,532.41, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 0.15, or 0.01%, to 2,626.45. EUROPE Europe's main stock markets mostly took a step back on Tuesday after a weak performance by Wall Street overnight. Investors focused on the retail sector amid a poor trading update from Tesco, the world's third biggest supermarket. The FTSE 100-share index ended the day down 53.3 points, or 0.8%, at 6,650.2. In Paris, the CAC 40 lost 0.08% to 6,082.37 points, while Frankfurt's DAX 30 edged up 0.02% 8,037.53. ASIA Markets were mostly higher, with property shares lifting Chinese stocks, while Japanese shares ended flat. Markets in Hong Kong and Taiwan were closed and will reopen Wednesday. New closing records were hit in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea. In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index rose for a fourth day, inching up 14.09 points, or 0.08%, to 18,163.61 points. The broader Topix index, which includes all shares on the exchange's first section, fell 7.90 points, or 0.44%, to 1,780.49 points. Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. rose on news that it is mulling investment in a shipyard project led by China Ocean Shipping (Group) Co. in Dalian, northeast China, via a joint venture. Kawasaki Heavy rose 1.59% to 510 yen ($4.11). In China, gains by property developers offset declines in banking stocks trigged by a crackdown on illegal stock and real estate investments. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index added 0.4% to 4,269.52. CURRENCY The shekel fell against the dollar to 4.1757, from 4.1432 late Monday. The US dollar was mixed against other major currencies in European trading Tuesday morning. The euro traded at US$1.3389, down from US$1.3411 late Monday in New York. Other dollar rates: 123.66 Japanese yen, up from 123.61; 1.0704 Canadian dollars, down from 1.0725; while the British pound traded at $1.9836, down from US$1.9837. COMMODITIES Oil prices edged lower after US crude futures closed at a nine-month high above $69 a barrel in the previous session, but unrest in Nigeria and Brazil continued to pressure the market. Light, sweet crude for July delivery lost 21 cents to $68.88 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, mid-afternoon in Europe. "US gasoline cracks continue to underpin crude prices as refiners struggle to keep up with strong demand across the driving season," said David Thomas, an analyst at Citigroup in London. As a result, all eyes will be focused on weekly US oil inventory data Wednesday for indications of the health of the refining sector. Analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires see gasoline inventories building by 1 million barrels, while refiner utilization is expected to rise by 0.6 percentage points. Inventory data is released on Wednesday. Heating oil futures dropped 0.41 cent to $2.0301 a gallon (3.8 liters) on the Nymex, while natural gas prices fell 3.3 cents to $7.657 per 1,000 cubic feet.