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'Twas the day after the night after Christmas and markets world wide were open for business, mostly, but might as well not have been. Faint hopes that the "Santa rally" would continue after a few days' gains were dashed. Indexes in Israel and Europe struggled for direction, ultimately crawling painfully to close mixed on thin turnover.

The benchmark TA-25 index eased down 0.2% to 1,121 points, and the broader TA-100 index finished a hair under the flatline at 1,005 points.

The sector indexes all inched ahead, with the undramatic exception of the biomed index, which fell 0.5% - a relatively extreme showing for that dull day. Total turnover remained small, at just over a billion shekels, as befits a holiday season marked mainly by trepidation.

A glance at the intraday chart of the TA-25 shows that stocks tried and tried again to break into the green, and managed it twice in afternoon trading, only to sink back into the red.

If there was action on Tuesday, it wasn't on the Tel Aviv trading floor. Over in New York, oil jumped more than $1 after Iran threatened to cut off the route through the Strait of Hormuz. In another bit of newsworthy non-action, the euro stayed at its 11-month low: investors explained that thin market liquidity could complicate Italy's plans to raise 8.5 billion euros in capital markets later in the week.

In Tel Aviv, insurance companies gained 3.7%. Harel jumped 4.8%, Clal Insurance gained 3.8% and the biggest, Migdal, gained 2.6%. Why? They'd been hammered in the last year and if there's a rally, they're positioned to jump like fleas, said an investments manager at one of the institutional investors.

Discount Investment, a member of the IDB group of companies, was also one of the day's movers, rising 5.4%. Why? A company that's heavily leveraged will magnify developments at its subsidiaries, explained an investment manager - and that works on the upside, too. He thinks Discount Investment and its group companies could have a good year. Discount Investment is a subsidiary of Nochi Dankner's IDB Holding group.

Israel Chemicals stock ended unchanged on relatively heavy turnover for the day. For one thing, it's one of the stocks that Leumi Partners likes for 2012 (see page 8 for the story ). For another, as TheMarker went to press, representatives of the Finance Ministry and ICL were feverishly hashing out a final agreement over rescuing the Dead Sea hotel industry, or rather who would pay for it. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz gave the company until midnight to accept his proposal, that it shoulder 90% of the bill. If it doesn't, he will convene another committee, he snarled. Stay tuned.