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The fluctuations that have characterized the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was hospitalized continued yesterday, although the market was in a slightly upbeat mood, fueled both by a positive recommendation for Israeli stocks from Merrill Lynch and a tailwind from Wall Street.

Total volume of trade on the TASE yesterday reached a respectable NIS 1.15 billion. The Tel Aviv-25 (Maof) index gained 0.2 percent to 825.7 points, completing a gain of 1.2 percent for the week. The broader Tel Aviv-100 index climbed 0.5 percent yesterday, bringing its weekly advance to 2.2 percent.

The Tel Tech-15 jumped almost 1 percent yesterday.

The banks led the way yesterday. Hapoalim (TASE: POLI), which announced midday that it was forecasting a very rosy year for itself, based on the economy's strong recovery as well as the sale of its fund management arms and Bank Otsar Ha-Hayal, gained 1.6 percent on the highest volume for the day of NIS 150 million. This gain wiped out the losses that Hapoalim's shares had shown since the start of the year.

Rival Bank Leumi (TASE: LUMI) gained 1.5 percent on volume of NIS 78 million, which not only wiped out its stock losses for the year, but more so. Israel Discount Bank (TASE: DSCT) was caught in the more volatile and moody atmosphere on the exchange for most of the day and managed a more moderate 0.6 percent gain. It fared far better, though, than United Mizrahi Bank (TASE: MZTF), which lost 1.4 percent.

In the real estate sector, Industrial Buildings (TASE: IBLD) jumped 1.8 percent on trade volume of NIS 900,000 after announcing that it had raised NIS 55 million in an institutional bond offering. Eliezer Fishman, who controls the company, has therefore raised some NIS 400 million in 10 days, through Industrial Buildings and its parent company Jerusalem Economic Corporation (TASE: ECGM), which gained 1.9 percent.