TA-25 rises, Nikkei at 7-yr. high

Israel's main stock index rose, paced by Bank Hapoalim Ltd. The TA-25 Index added 6.75, or 0.6 percent, to 1,145.29 in Tel Aviv, as 17 shares gained and 8 declined.

SHARES TEL AVIV Israel's main stock index rose, paced by Bank Hapoalim Ltd. The TA-25 Index added 6.75, or 0.6 percent, to 1,145.29 in Tel Aviv, as 17 shares gained and 8 declined. Bank Hapoalim rose NIS 0.33, or 1.6%, to NIS 20.87, while Bank Leumi Le-Israel Ltd. gained NIS 0.10, or 0.6%, to NIS 16.76, Israel Discount Bank Ltd. rose NIS 0.08, or 0.9%, to NIS 9.02 and Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank Ltd. gained NIS 0.70, or 2.3%, to NIS 31.51. A number of foreign investors are buying shares in Israeli banks since they are "still cheap," said Dan Farhi, head of international sales at Excellence Nessuah Securities and Investments Ltd. in Ramat-Gan. "The main reason is value," said Farhi. "The price is still attractive compared to other banks in the world." IBI Investment House Ltd., a financial services firm, rose NIS 0.81, or 1.4%, to NIS 59.40 shekels. Africa Israel Investments Ltd., a property developer and holding company controlled by diamond billionaire Lev Leviev, has agreed to buy IBI for as much as NIS 450m., Yediot Ahronot reported. IBI, which reported last week that Africa Israel was in talks to buy control of the company, said Monday there was "no change" from its July 4 statement. Israel Chemicals Ltd., the company which extracts minerals from the Dead Sea, advanced NIS 0.41, or 1.2%, to NIS 34.29. Potash stocks had "a strong showing" in the US last week, Clal Finance Batucha Investment Management Ltd. wrote in a note to investors. Ormat Industries Ltd., a builder and operator of geothermal power plants, climbed NIS 0.81 or 1.6%, to NIS 51.19. The company was rated "buy" in new coverage at Excellence Nessuah Securities & Investments Ltd. Shares of Ormat will probably trade at NIS 58 in the next 12 months, Excellence wrote in a report to investors. WALL STREET U.S. stocks rose and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained for a fifth straight day on speculation second-quarter earnings will beat analysts' estimates. The S&P 500 rose 1.24, or 0.1%, to 1,531.68 as of in early afternoon trade while the Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 41.22, or 0.3%, to 13,652.9 and the Nasdaq Composite Index added 2.46, or 0.1%, to 2,668.97. Alcoa Inc., the first Dow company to report results, paced the 30-stock gauge's advance. The world's second-biggest aluminum maker was to announce its earnings after the close of trading. EUROPE European stocks climbed for a second day as takeover speculation lifted food and beverage shares and a higher profit forecast from Telekom Austria AG sparked a rally in telephone companies. The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index gained 0.3% to 398.52. The index has climbed for two straight weeks on speculation companies will withstand rising interest rates and mergers will continue to buoy shares. National benchmarks rose in all of the 18 western European markets, except Spain and Ireland. The U\K's FTSE 100 increased 0.3% to 6,712.70 and France's CAC 40 added less than 0.1% while Germany's DAX increased 0.4%. The Stoxx 50 climbed 0.4%, and the Euro Stoxx 50, a measure for the euro region, increased 0.1%. ASIA Asian stocks rose, driving the Nikkei 225 Stock Average to a seven-year high, on signs economic growth in Japan and South Korea is accelerating. The Morgan Stanley Capital International Asia-Pacific Index added 1.1% to 157.95 as of 6:06 p.m. in Tokyo, set for a record. The measure slipped 0.1% to 156.23 on July 6, after gaining 2.3% in the month's first four trading days. The Nikkei 225 advanced 0.7% to 18,261.98, its highest close since May 2000. The Kospi added 1.2%, taking its advance this month to 8%. Benchmarks climbed elsewhere in the region, except in the Philippines. China's CSI 300 Index posted the region's biggest advance after the government said it would limit sales of state-controlled equity as holding periods for the stakes expire. CURRENCY Against the dollar, the shekel rose 0.4% to 4.2298 by 5:30 p.m. in Tel Aviv, from 4.2483 Sunday and compared with a Bank of Israel fixing of 4.2260. The US currency, which had gained about 1.8% against the shekel since July 4, fell Tuesday after it failed to breach 4.2510 and sellers emerged, according to Gil Chen, a trader at Israel Brokerage & Investments Ltd. The dollar was little changed at $1.3622 versus the euro, from $1.3627 on July 6, midday in New York. It bought 123.32 yen, from 123.34. The Japanese currency was little changed at 168 versus the euro from 168.05, after earlier reaching 168.51, the weakest on record. COMMODITIES Crude for August delivery fell 45 cents to $72.36 a barrel midday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold for August delivery rose $7.70 to close at $662.50 an ounce on the Comex division of the NYMEX.