Wall Street extends advance

The Tel Aviv-25 Index gained for a third day, the longest winning streak in almost two months.

SHARES TEL AVIV The Tel Aviv-25 Index gained for a third day, the longest winning streak in almost two months, adding 13.10, or 1.2 percent, to 1,087.09 at the close in Tel Aviv as 19 members advanced and six retreated. Investors traded about NIS 2 billion in shares and convertible securities. Africa Israel Investments surged NIS 20.20, or 8.8%, to NIS 249, the biggest one-day gain in seven years. Diamond billionaire Lev Leviev said his holding and property company was safe from liquidity problems in the real-estate sector, Ma'ariv reported. Bank Leumi rose NIS 0.37 shekel, or 2.2%, to NIS 17.45, the biggest gain in 11 days. Delek Group climbed for the first time in five days, adding NIS 21.90, or 3.4%, to NIS 665.40. Elbit Systems rose the most in nine days, gaining NIS 4.90, or 2.4%, to NIS 205.90. Israel's biggest nongovernmental defense company won a $27 million contract to supply the US Marine Corps with hand-held thermal imagers for long-range observation. Hot-Telecommunication Systems rose NIS 2.04, or 4.2%, to NIS 51, the biggest advance in almost three weeks. Partner Communications, Israel's second-largest mobile-phone company, renewed talks to buy Hot, which provides cable television and fixed-line telecommunication services, Globes reported. Kardan NV gained for a third day, adding NIS 1.51, or 3%, to NIS 52.11. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries climbed NIS 3.30, or 2%, to NIS 171.30, the biggest rise in almost two months. WALL STREET Wall Street moved higher Wednesday after the Commerce Department reported an unexpected increase in retail sales last month and eased some concerns about consumers' willingness to spend despite economic uncertainty. The 0.3% rise in January retail sales, which followed a drop during December, alleviated some of Wall Street's worries that consumers were retrenching because of rising fuel prices, a faltering real estate sector and a choppy stock market. Analysts had expected a 0.3% decline in January sales. In midday trading, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 110.55, or 0.89%, to 12,483.96. Broader indexes also moved higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 10.39, or 0.77%, to 1,359.25; and the Nasdaq composite rose 35.29, or 1.52%, 2,355.33. EUROPE Stocks in Europe closed with modest gains Wednesday, boosted by a rally in the auto sector after better-than-expected US retail sales data and well-received earnings news from Peugeot and Finland's Nokian Tyres. Markets see-sawed late in the session, but the pan-European Dow Jones Stoxx 600 index ended the day 0.1% higher to 323.30, with autos up 2.1% as retail sales data eased fears that consumer spending will dry up. National markets backed off earlier highs, but ended the day mostly up. The German DAX 30 Index rose 0.1% to 6,973.67, while the French CAC-40 Index gained 0.3% to 4,855.40. The UK's FTSE-100 Index lost ground, ending the day 0.5% lower at 5,880.10, after losses in the banking sector. ASIA Most Asian markets rose Wednesday after a gain in US stocks overnight, but volume was thin as traders await further clues to the health of global economies. Japan's Nikkei 225 index added 0.4% to close at 13,068 points, while in Hong Kong, gains in Chinese oil companies and Hong Kong property firms lifted the Hang Seng Index 1.1% to 23,170 points after rising 1.4% Tuesday. CURRENCIES The shekel fell to 3.6060 per dollar, from 3.5906 Tuesday. It climbed to 3.5575 on February 1, the highest level since January 1998, and has been the best performer among 11 emerging-market currencies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa over the past month. The dollar was mostly higher against other major currencies in European trading Wednesday. The euro traded at $1.4567, down from $1.4592 late Tuesday in New York. COMMODITIES Oil futures rose moderately Wednesday as traders shrugged off a mixed government inventory report and focused on the US economy and threats to crude supplies overseas. The report from the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said heating oil stocks were higher than expected last week but that crude oil and gasoline stockpiles grew less than analysts predicted. That left energy markets relatively unchanged, and traders quickly looked past the report to the stock market and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's threat to cut off oil sales to the US. Light, sweet crude for March delivery rose 47 cents to $93.25 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Platinum continued its record-setting rally Wednesday, briefly rising above $2,000 an ounce for the first time amid concerns that a power shortage in South Africa could slow mining operations for several years. Platinum prices have roughly doubled in four years, with global inventories growing tighter as automakers try to meet demand, particularly in Asia and Eastern Europe. Demand for the metal, used in jewelry and catalytic converters in automotive exhaust systems, has also surged due to stricter emissions standards. Gold for April delivery added 10 cents to $911.20 an ounce on the Nymex. March silver gained 11 cents to $17.360 an ounce.