Tel Aviv stocks set new records; shekel jumps

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange's benchmark TA-25 index rose 1% to 931.21, the TA-100 added 0.94% to 936.82, and the Tel-Tech 15 index of top technology issues rebounded 0.39% to 378.53.

MarketWatch: In-depth global business coverage SHARES TEL AVIV Israeli stocks traded at records Wednesday as investors sifted a sharply stronger shekel, a stack of economic data, the impact of a general strike by the country's major labor federation, and earnings from some top corporate movers. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange's benchmark TA-25 index rose 1 percent to 931.21, the TA-100 added 0.94% to 936.82, and the Tel-Tech 15 index of top technology issues rebounded 0.39% to 378.53. The TA-25 and TA-100 indexes exceeded records set November 22. The Tel-Tech topped out at 482.78 on January 20, 2004. Bank Leumi was the most-active issue, trading up nearly 1% to NIS 17.03 while accounting for more an eighth of the TASE's total volume of $358 million. That in turn was 7.5% above the daily average TASE volume through October of $333m. Bank Leumi reported third-quarter net income of NIS 970m., up 70% from the year-earlier period. The dollar was 0.74% weaker at around NIS 4.2592. The shekel's strengthening "was the main driver" behind Wednesday's gains, said Avi Weinreb, trader at Clal Finance Batucha. The stronger shekel encourages the Bank of Israel to lower rates yet further, which in turn can act as a spur for investors to switch out of lower-yielding fixed-income securities into stocks. That boosts equity markets, he noted. Meanwhile, Israel's consumer price index has dropped 1.5% from the third quarter, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported on Wednesday. The CBS also pegged the country's unemployment rate at 8.3%, the lowest level in 12 years. The jobless rate "is a very good headline number," Weinreb said. Makhteshim-Agan's shares advanced 2.7% to NIS 22.99. Reports on the company, a leading maker of generic agrichemicals, from Merrill Lynch and UBS were strong, Weinreb said. Commodity prices are up, which will help farmers' incomes, and that in turn is positive for Makhteshim-Agan, he said. IDB Development Corp. reported third-quarter profit of NIS 456m., up 60% from NIS 284m. a year earlier. The shares rose 2.9% to NIS 147.5. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries fell 1.4% to NIS 139.6. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration tentatively cleared the company's abbreviated new-drug application for the generic equivalent of Imitrex, which treats acute migraine headaches. Ormat Industries jumped 2.7% to NIS 47.39. It's the parent of power-plant producer Ormat Technologies, the rating for which was upgraded to hold from sell at Citigroup. Koor Industries rose 1.4% to NIS 227.5. The company's ECI Telecom equipment affiliate was reiterated as a buy with an $11 price target at Citigroup. Elbit Systems saw its shares tack on 0.8% to NIS 143. The company's Electro-Optics subsidiary received a $19m. contract to supply thermal-imaging kits for gunner periscope sights of the Korean K1A1 tank. WALL STREET US stocks were higher Wednesday afternoon after third-quarter economic growth was revised higher and inflation was revised lower. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 50 points, or 0.4%, to 12,186.20. The S&P 500 gained 8 points to 1,394, while the Nasdaq Composite rose 8 points to 2,421. The US economy grew at a 2.2% annual pace in the third quarter, faster than the initial estimate of 1.6%, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday in its first revision to the gross domestic product report. Economists expected growth to be revised to 1.8%. EUROPE European shares broke a five-session losing streak on Wednesday after comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke supported the dollar. The pan-European Dow Jones Stoxx 600 index rose 1.3% to 354.19. The German DAX Xetra 30 index closed up 1.3% at 6,363.80, the French CAC-40 index increased 1.4% to 5,381.25 and the UK FTSE 100 index rose 1% to 6,084.40. Fed chief Bernanke said overnight that the US economy is still on track to expand at a moderate pace over the next year, without slowing too much. ASIA Asian stocks rebounded Wednesday, led higher by Japan's Nikkei Average after surprisingly strong industrial-output data spurred buying in blue chips such as Toyota Motor and Bridgestone Corp. Japan's industrial production expanded 1.6% in October from the previous month on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to government data released before the start of trading. Japan's Nikkei 225 Average ended 1.4% higher at 16,076.20, marking its first close above the 16,000-point level in more than a week. The broader Topix index was up 1.6% to 1,580.10. CURRENCY The dollar rose 0.4% against the euro and gained 0.1% against the yen. COMMODITIES Gold for December delivery fell 50 cents to $636.80 an ounce, on the New York Mercantile Exchange as the dollar recovered some ground. Crude oil futures gained $1.16, or 1.9%, to $62.17 a barrel after a bullish drop in weekly gasoline inventories and amid forecasts for cold temperatures across the US. MarketWatch: In-depth global business coverage