Israeli shares finished with a negative bias yesterday after starting in the green. Traders ascribed the midday downturn to the negative trend in European markets.

In any case the locals were largely trading with bated breath ahead of the Bank of Israel's announcement of interest rates for February. Total turnover was relatively thin, at NIS 1.7 billion.

Over in Europe, shares finished with a fuzzy positive bias. Notably, among the gainers yesterday were stocks associated with defensive investment policy, which means those not expected to lose too much ground in an economic downturn, such as drug companies and (conversely ) cigarette makers. Mining shares also advanced. Shares of a cyclical nature lost ground.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 gained 0.3% as most European leading indexes ambled ahead, if not by much. One of the stronger gainers yesterday was the U.K.'s benchmark FTSE index, which ended 0.9% higher. Among the few losers were shares on the Spanish, Stockholm and Oslo exchanges.

Asian exchanges turned in a mixed performance, with Tokyo's Nikkei starting in the green and climbing steadily from mid-session. Not so Hong Kong, which ended 0.3% lower, while Chinese shares lost more than 1%.

Back in the Holy Land, the leading indexes lost about 0.5%. The TelTech-15 index stood out with a 0.8% loss, and the mid caps crept to a finish barely above the flatline. Among stocks worthy of note were Globe Exploration, which gained 3.6% after signing an operator onto an agreement to drill at the Ofek 1 site, apparently starting in April. Mazor, maker of the SpineAssist robotic surgical device, gained 1.1% after announcing signature on a distribution agreement for Italy. Yet again the liveliest stock on the floor was Ratio Oil Exploration, which gained 3.7% on turnover of NIS 115 million. Next in line was Bank Leumi, which lost 0.6% on a volume of NIS 110 million.