Tel Aviv stocks stay steady in light trading

Stocks finished little changed Wednesday, as the banks were mixed and shares of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Africa Israel Investments gained.

MarketWatch: In-depth global business coverage SHARES TEL AVIV Stocks finished little changed Wednesday, as the banks were mixed and shares of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Africa Israel Investments gained. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange's benchmark TA-25 index slipped 0.16% to 935.57, the TA-100 index eased 0.1% to 932.15, and the Tel-Tech index of 15 top technology issues tacked on 0.35% to 366.64. The most-active issue was Bank Hapoalim, off 0.5% at NIS 20.09. Volume on the TASE was $280 million, against the 2006 daily average on the TASE through November of $344m. Teva rose 0.5% to NIS 133.6. Also busy among the blue chips was fertilizer producer Israel Chemicals, down 0.4% to NIS 26.33. Africa Israel leaped nearly 5% to NIS 318.8 as Israeli Brokerage & Investments initiated coverage of the real estate investor with a buy rating. Among the other banks, Leumi declined 1.5% to NIS 17.35, Mizrachi Tefahot fell 1.1% to NIS 31.33, Discount rose 0.9% to NIS 9.18, and First International rose 1% to NIS 55.81. The Bank of Israel, having cut interest rates and boosted its economic-growth outlook this week, turned its attention to the banking system and said that while the nation's banks had improved their performance, they needed to strengthen capital levels. Within the Tel-Tech, the defense contractors were mixed, with Elbit Systems rising 1.5% to NIS 137.2 and Tadiran Communications down 0.6% at NIS 163.7. Also active in tech: Nice, a producer of digital recording and archiving systems, rose 1.1% to NIS 131.6; Verifone, a producer of electronic-payment solutions, fell 0.4% to 151.4; Gilat Satellite Networks declined 1.3% to NIS 37.35; and Retalix, a producer of management systems for supermarkets and distributors, fell 1.5% to NIS 68.27. WALL STREET US stocks rallied at midday Wednesday, as fund managers scurried to make last-minute additions to their portfolios by the year-end, with momentum reinforced by unexpectedly robust housing data. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 79.15 points or 0.64% to 12,487 as of 1:35 p.m. The S&P 500 gained 7 points to 1,424 as the Nasdaq Composite rose almost 15 points to 2,428. EUROPE European stock markets closed higher, with oil-price weakness and speculation over possible consolidation in the automotive industry among the factors lifting shares in a thinly traded session. Following a five-day Christmas hiatus taken by European investors, the German DAX Xetra 30 index closed up 1.6% at 6,608.86. In France, the CAC 40 rose 1.6% to 5,540.01, while the UK's FTSE 100 improved 55.2 points, or 0.89%, to 6,245.20. ASIA Japan's Nikkei 225 Index ended at a seven-month high, led by gains in Toyota Motor Corp. on reports the automaker has held talks with Ford Motor Co. that may lead to possible tie-up, while a weaker yen also bolstered buying of export-related shares. The Nikkei ended the session 0.3% higher, rising 53.96 points to 17,223.15 to reclaim its highest close since May 8. The broader Tokyo Stock Price Index, or Topix, was up 4.50 points, also 0.3%, to 1,676.95. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index, Hong Kong's benchmark for tracking China shares, rallied 6.9% to a record 10,258.31. The blue-chip Hang Seng Index rose 2.1% to 19,725.73, after touching an all-time high at 19,728 earlier in the session. CURRENCIES The dollar fell against other major currencies early Wednesday, after the United Arab Emirates said it is looking to diversify its foreign-exchange reserves away from the greenback. The euro was up 0.2% at $1.3121 in midday trade in New York, while the dollar was down 0.3% at 118.75 yen. COMMODITIES ENERGY The February crude futures contract last traded down 0.3% at $60.91 a barrel. The contract was under pressure after forecasts for warmer-than-average temperatures in the Eastern US dampened demand expectations, overshadowing political concerns involving Iran, Nigeria and Somalia. GOLD Gold futures benefited from the dollar's weakness. Gold for February delivery last was up $3.20 at $630.10 an ounce. MarketWatch: In-depth global business coverage