TA-25 rises as fears of Fischer resignation ease

Israel's stock index gained after Central Bank Governor Stanley Fischer cancelled a press conference he called earlier in the day, reducing concerns that he may resign.

SHARES TEL AVIV Israel's stock index gained after Central Bank Governor Stanley Fischer cancelled a press conference he called earlier in the day, reducing concerns that he may resign. Israel Chemicals Ltd. paced gains. The TA-25 Index increased 3.37, or 0.4 percent, to 977.98 in Tel Aviv after dropping as much as 1.4% earlier in the session. Seventeen stocks gained and eight declined. Investors bought and sold about NIS 1.81b. in shares and convertibles. Fischer canceled a planned news conference after the Finance Ministry agreed to a 48-hour deadline for reaching an agreement on a wage dispute with the staff of Israel's central bank. "This will relieve fears that the Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer may resign," Clal Finance Batucha Investment Management Ltd. said in a note to investors. "The market is ticking higher on the news." The announcement of Fischer's news conference, which was scheduled for 8:00 p.m., had prompted speculation among investors that he planned to resign. Instead, he accepted an offer from Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson for "intensive" negotiations to resolve the dispute that led the central bank's staff to declare a strike. Israel Chemicals Ltd., a company which extracts minerals from the Dead Sea to make fertilizers, gained NIS 0.27, or 1%, to NIS 26.76. Blue Square-Israel Ltd. added NIS 0.98, or 1.5%, to NIS 67.63. The country's second-biggest food retailer said fourth-quarter profit more than doubled as the Israeli economy strengthened. Net income climbed to NIS 56.8m. from NIS 26.8m. Migdal Insurance Holdings Ltd. increased NIS 0.16, or 2.4%, to NIS 6.67. Bank Leumi Le-Israel Ltd., the country's second-largest lender, is in talks to sell a 10% stake in its credit-card unit Leumi-Card Ltd. to Migdal, Israel's biggest insurer, Bank Leumi said in a statement to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. WALL STREET The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained as speculation built that takeovers will help extend a week-long rebound and Intel Corp. paced an advance by semiconductor shares. Dollar General Corp., which got a $6.9 billion bid, and Sierra Health Services Inc., target of a $2.6b. offer advanced. The Dow industrials added 13.22, or 0.1%, to 12,289.54 in afternoon trade, while the Nasdaq increased 5.10, or 0.2%, to 2,392.65. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was unchanged at 1402.86, restrained by a slide in financial-company shares. EUROPE European stocks fell, snapping four days of gains. The Stoxx 600 lost 0.5% to 365.49, the Stoxx 50 dropped 0.7%, and the Euro Stoxx 50, a gauge for the 13 nations sharing the euro, decreased 0.6%. National benchmarks dropped in 14 of the 18 western European markets. France's CAC 40 fell 0.8% while the UK's FTSE 100 dropped 0.2% to 6,233.30 and Germany's DAX was little changed. ASIA Asian stocks rose for a third day after Japan reported economic growth that beat estimates and US unemployment unexpectedly fell. The Morgan Stanley Capital International Asia-Pacific Index advanced 0.9% to 143.94 at 7:16 p.m. in Tokyo, extending a rally that started last week. Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average added 0.8% to 17,292.39. All other markets climbed, except in Sri Lanka. CURRENCY The yen strengthened to 117.61 against the dollar in afternoon trade in New York from 118.33 on Friday. It was the biggest gain since March 5. The euro rose to $1.3182 from $1.3116. COMMODITIES Crude oil for April delivery fell $1.06, or 1.8%, to $58.99 a barrel at the close of floor trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold rose $1.40, or 0.2%, to $653.30 an ounce on the Comex division of the NYMEX.