Tel Aviv-25 Index falls for a fourth day

Africa Israel Investments dropped to the lowest in two years, retreating 3.1%.

SHARES TEL AVIV The Tel Aviv-25 Index fell for a fourth day on Monday, dropping 1.87, or 0.2 percent, to 997.16. The measure slumped 18% in the last three months, the first quarterly decline since the period ended June 30, 2006. Investors traded about NIS 1.59 billion in shares and convertible securities. Trading on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange ended at 2:15 p.m. instead of 5:30 p.m. because of a labor union dispute. Africa Israel Investments dropped to the lowest in two years, retreating 3.1%. The property company controlled by diamond billionaire Lev Leviev said fourth-quarter profit had declined 40% after construction subsidiary Danya Cebus reported a loss. Bank Hapoalim fell for a sixth day, losing 2.4%. It said profit had dropped 71% in the fourth quarter after it wrote down the value of its holdings in structured investment vehicles. Bank Leumi declined for a fourth day, slipping 1%. It said fourth-quarter profit had fallen 52%. Israel Discount Bank declined to its lowest in almost two weeks, dropping 2.3%. It said fourth-quarter profit had fallen 72% on a NIS 130m. tax charge and higher costs. Mivtach Shamir Holdings, the group that bought Tnuva Marketing Cooperative with Apax Partners Worldwide, rose 1.6%. Gilat Satellite Networks, an Israeli maker of satellite terminals, agreed to be acquired by an investment group led by Gores Group and Mivtach Shamir. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries rose the most in eight days, adding 1.8%. The world's largest generic drugmaker agreed to buy Bentley Pharmaceuticals for $360m. in cash to expand in Spain and other European countries. WALL STREET Stocks rose after a reading on regional manufacturing came in better than expected and as investors examined details of a government plan to overhaul the way Wall Street is regulated. The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index, considered a precursor to the National Institute for Supply Management manufacturing survey on Tuesday, rose to 48.2 in March from 44.5 a month earlier. Economists had been expecting a reading of 47.3, according to Dow Jones Newswires. A figure below 50 indicates a contraction in manufacturing activity. In midday trading, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 49.26, or 0.40%, to 12,265.66. Broader stock indicators rose. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index advanced 8.12, or 0.62%, to 1,323.34, and the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 13.95, or 0.62%, to 2,275.13. EUROPE There was a mixed picture for European stocks, with the telecommunications sector plunging after concerns about new regulation for the sector. European shares dropped overall, in what has been the worst performing quarter since 2002, with credit concerns continuing to put pressure on financials and banking stocks. The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index fell 0.4% to 305.5. In terms of national markets, Britain's FTSE 100 Index fluctuated to settle just into positive territory, up 0.2% at 5,702.1, while France's CAC-40 Index crept up 0.2% to 4,707.1. Germany's DAX Index closed down 0.4% at 6,535.0. ASIA Most Asian markets fell after the health of the US consumer came into focus at the end of last week and pushed Wall Street to its fourth straight loss. Worries about the impact of a slowing US economy and weak consumer demand for Asian exports helped to push share prices lower in China and Hong Kong. Japanese stocks slumped after weak Japanese industrial production data weighed on sentiment. The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index fell 2.3% to 12,525.54 on the last day of a dreary fiscal year. The index has lost 28% since the end of March 2007, pushed down by global risk aversion and a lackluster Japanese economy. CURRENCIES The shekel fell for a third day against the dollar, to 3.5606 from 3.5280 at the end of last week. It has risen 2.5% versus the US currency this month and 7.3% in the first quarter, the most in almost five years. The shekel is the fourth-best performer among 11 emerging-market currencies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa so far this year. It climbed to an 11-year high of 3.3650 per dollar on March 19. The dollar was mostly lower against other major currencies in European late trading. The euro was quoted at $1.5871, up from $1.5839 late Friday in New York. COMMODITIES Commodities prices fell in a broad sell-off as profit-taking on the last day of the quarter and a bearish US agriculture report battered everything from precious metals to grains and energy futures. Relentless global demand for agricultural coupled with dwindling world stockpiles has exacerbated the supply crunch for wheat, soybeans and corn, which have spiked to historic levels in the past year. In precious metals, gold, silver and copper prices fell sharply as investors locked in profits on the last day of the quarter. Gold for April delivery lost $13.20 to $917.40 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The April contract is set to expire Tuesday, adding to the trading volatility. In energy futures, crude oil extended its losses. In addition, news that a bombed Iraqi oil pipeline has resumed exports eased supply concerns and added to the downward pressure on crude. Light, sweet crude for May delivery dropped $3.64 to fetch $101.98 a barrel on the Nymex.