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Stocks eased up on the third trading day of 2006 on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. The session had begun with a roar but the sharp gains among real estate and broad-market stocks ebbed as the day wore on. Turnover was tremendous, breaking the record for a non-options expiry day at nearly NIS 2 billion, because foreign investors started coming back after the Christmas break.

It was an extraordinary day. Trade in Maof stocks alone ? the 25 listed on the TA-25 index ? was a billion shekels, and NIS 400 million changed hands over TA-75 stocks, which was less than the turnover in the five big banks alone, after warm recommendations from Clal Finance Batucha and Leader & Co. Both suggest that despite the 50% climb in bank stocks during 2005, they have places to go.

The TA-25 index gained 0.3% to 844 points, the TA-100 index advanced 0.3% to 850 but the TelTech-15 index weakened by 0.8%.

Bonds sustained their positive trend that has lasted all week. The general index of giovt bonds shot up 0.7% today. 10-year Shahars dropped 0.1%, however. Migdal Capital Markets says what happened was an inversion: a treasury offering of bonds closed at higher than market prices and withdrawals from mutual funds have slowed to a trickle, so bonds rose strongly on Monday, especially linked bonds, which soared 1% on heavy volume. The treasury won't be issuing any more bonds this month, so supply won't grow, which could create pressure in the bond market.

The Real Estate 15 index started on a 2% gain but finished 0.6% higher at 423.8 points. A third of the stocks on the index were below water by closing. Turnover in real estate stocks was very high at NIS 132 million.

Among the real estate stocks, Africa Israel stood out with a 1.8% loss after starting on a 2% gain: turnover was huge at NIS 32 million. Azorim also started in the green and ended in the red, losing 0.4% on a volume of NIS 18.4 million. Gazit Globe added 1.3% and Alony Hetz succumbed to the blah and lost 0.4%.

ILD Insurance rose 3.4% on turnover of half a million shekel on the report in TheMarker that Albar's Eli Elezra had bought the controlling interest in the company from the Nimrodi family. They actually own equal stakes now, but the equity structure ensures that Elezra will prevail in the event of disputes. He paid a 60% premium for the controlling interest.

The Yeter-30 broad market index started the day with a 2% leap skywards but ended only 0.3% ahead of the game at 547.1 points. Again many of its stocks started in the green and ended in the red. JOEL sank 0.3% on a volume of NIS 6.4 million; Danya Cebus gained 1.4% on turnover of NIS 6.2 million (real estate again!).

Moving onto the TA-25 index, 24 of its 25 stocks started with gains and not all ended that way. Nice Systems, the newest addition, fell 1.3% on active trade and Strauss-Elite sank 2.1% on turnover of NIS 12 million, after rising 9% in the space of two days.

Banks beat the trend entirely: the banks index closed 2.2% higher at 1328.8 points. Hapoalim advanced 2.4% after NIS 160 million worth of stock had changed hands. Bank Leumi rose 2.1% on a turnover of NIS 130 million, Bank Discount added 2.6% and Mizrahi gained 2.2%, both on unusually heavy volumes of trade.

Insurance companies also started with a bang and ended with a whimper. Harel ended unchanged on turnover of NIS 12 million and Migdal gained 0.4% on a volume of NIS 23 million. Clal Insurance dropped 0.2%.