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The shekel strengthened slightly against the dollar on Friday, after weakening by more than 1% the day before.

The severe stroke Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered on Wednesday night sent the shekel sliding against all major currencies on Thursday. But today, the dollar weakened by 0.17% against the shekel. The representative exchange rate was set at NIS 4.62.

The euro weakened by 0.23% to NIS 5.5865. During the week, though, the euro strengthened by 2.6% against the shekel, most of that in the last three days of the week, as Sharon battled for his life.

First International Bank's dealing room reported a quiet day. Dealers said they felt nothing unusual, and that deal traffic by local and foreign investors had been thin, which is normal for a Friday.

In the morning the dollar had weakened to NIS 4.60, but it appreciated before closing.

The bank believes the dollar will strengthen further against the shekel at the beginning of next week, irrespective of what happens in the world.

The Sharon crisis temporarily quelled the correlation between the world forex market and the local one, the bank says. In recent weeks the shekel has been under the influence of the world dollar-euro trade but it is now responding to local events.

Before Sharon fell ill the bank had identified a technical support level at NIS 4.57 and a resistance level at NIS 4.62. Now the bank says to treat these levels with caution.

Excellence-Nessuah begs to differ, saying that the shekel will remain more strongly affected by developments in world markets.

We shall see. Next week the U.S. will be releasing its employment data for December, which is always a weighty factor in global forex trade.