Tel Aviv-25 Index drops

AudioCodes Ltd., whose technology helps place calls over the Internet, declined 5.4%.

SHARES TEL AVIV The Tel Aviv-25 Index fell the most in a month, decreasing 21.11, or 3.1 percent, to 660.26 at the close in Tel Aviv. AudioCodes Ltd. declined 5.4%. The company, whose technology helps place calls over the Internet, said it was cutting global employee wages by 6% and management salaries by 10%. Bank Hapoalim Ltd. dropped 3.7%, Bank Leumi Le-Israel Ltd. fell 5% and Israel Discount Bank Ltd. lost 2.2%. Israel's five largest banks reportedly will have to pay a total fine of NIS 290 million for sharing information on fees they charged clients. Hapoalim, Leumi and Discount reportedly were ordered to pay NIS 80m. each by the antitrust regulator. Makhteshim Agan Industries Ltd., the world's largest maker of generic agrochemicals, fell 6.5%. The European Parliament on Tuesday voted to reduce the maximum number of approvals for pesticides to force the industry to find substitutes for the most toxic substances. WALL STREET Stock markets plummeted in reaction to dismal US retail-sales data and renewed concerns over the financial well-being of the banking system. Shares on Wall Street fell upon opening, pushing European indexes to close deep in the red, after a report showed US retail sales fell 2.8% in December from the previous month, more than twice the 1.2% decline expected by analysts. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 255.75 points, or 3.0%, to 8,192.81, while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 28.18, or 3.2%, to 843.61. EUROPE The FTSE 100 Index of leading British shares closed down 5%, at 4,180.64, while Germany's DAX fell 4.6% and France's CAC-40 closed down 4.6%. ASIA Asian markets rose modestly, with Tokyo's Nikkei 225 stock average, which fell nearly 5% on Tuesday, up 24.54 points, or 0.3%, to 8,438.45. CURRENCIES The euro traded near a five-week low against the dollar with European Central Bank policy makers forecast to cut interest rates by 0.5 percentage points today. The Russian ruble dropped to its weakest in six years against the dollar after the central bank devalued the currency for the third time in four days and the government's dispute with Ukraine over gas shipments remained unresolved. The dollar touched $1.3093 per euro, the strongest since December 11, before trading at $1.3179. COMMODITIES Crude oil fell after a US government report showed that stockpiles climbed to a 16-month high as fuel demand tumbled. Crude oil for February delivery fell $1.26, or 3.3%, to $36.52 a barrel at 12:54 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices touched $35.52, the lowest since December 24. Futures are down 61% from a year ago. Gold prices fell to a five-week low as gains by the dollar eroded the appeal of the precious metal as an alternative investment. Gold futures for February delivery fell $11.90, or 1.5%, to $808.80 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest settlement since December 10.