Tech, Teva bolster Tel Aviv

Israel shares closed slightly higher on Monday, reflecting strength in Teva Pharmaceutical, tech and real estate and some weakness in the banks.

MarketWatch: In-depth global business coverage SHARES TEL AVIV Israel shares closed slightly higher on Monday, reflecting strength in Teva Pharmaceutical, tech and real estate and some weakness in the banks. The benchmark TA-25 index added 0.05 percent to 933.20, the TA-100 rose 0.26% to 941.40, and the Tel-Tech index of 15 top technology issues advanced 0.48% to 373.15. The most-active issue was Teva, trading up 1.7% at NIS 138.30. The company was reiterated "neutral" at Merrill Lynch. The brokerage said it is "intrigued by Teva's relatively low multiple and poor investor sentiment surrounding the stock" but is still assessing the company's "growth potential in an increasingly competitive environment." Volume on the TASE was $328 million, compared with the average daily volume through December of $334m. Meanwhile, in a report on global emerging markets, HSBC reiterated Israel as an "underweight," saying the country faces "a range of problems." Prime among them, the brokerage said, is its status as "essentially a developed market," which limits its growth potential relative to other countries classified as emerging markets. Earnings have been weak, particularly at the banks, and the country's tech companies are seeing no earnings momentum, reflecting a lack of pricing power in the technology industry worldwide, HSBC's analysts said. "Overall, we struggle to come up with many strong positive recommendations in the country. Our preferred sectors are telecoms and chemicals, but the Israeli market remains a convincing and heavy underweight." Telecom provider Bezeq, rated overweight at HSBC, advanced 1.2% to NIS 6.82. Partner Communications, the Israeli affiliate of the Orange cellular network, added 1.3% to NIS 51.40. HSBC puts a "buy" on the stock. Israel Chemicals, the fertilizer producer, lost 1.7% to NIS 25.11. HSBC tags ICL "underweight." Merrill Lynch reiterated the stock a "buy," saying it expects "solid momentum to continue" into the fourth quarter as some flame-retardant price increases "have yet to feed into the market." WALL STREET The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 17 points, or 0.1% at 12,415 in early afternoon trading while the Nasdaq Composite Index added 8 points, or 0.3%, to 2,442 and the S&P 500 dipped 1 point to 2,433. EUROPE The pan-European Dow Jones Stoxx 600 index added 0.3% to 366.68. Among other indexes, the UK's FTSE 100 index dropped 0.42% to close at 6,194.20, the German DAX Xetra 30 index rose 0.5% to 6,622.84 and the French CAC-40 index gained 0.5% to 5,544.62. ASIA Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended 0.9% lower at 20,029.66. The China Enterprise Index, Hong Kong's benchmark for China shares, was down 1.3% to 10,127.07. Financial markets in Tokyo were closed for a public holiday. CURRENCY In New York midday trading, the dollar was quoted at 118.62 yen, compared with 118.65 yen late Friday. The euro stood at $1.3003, compared with $1.3002. COMMODITIES February oil dropped $1.01 to $55.30 a barrel. February gold fell $1.10 to $605.80 an ounce Monday morning, retreating from an earlier high of $611.10 as oil prices fell. MarketWatch: In-depth global business coverage