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Stocks eased up on the third trading day of 2006 yesterday on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. The session began 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 percent climb in bank stocks during 2005, they have places to go.

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

Bonds sustained their positive trend that has lasted all week. The general index of government bonds shot up 0.7 percent today. Ten-year Shahars dropped 0.1 percent, 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 slowed to a trickle, so bonds rose strongly on Monday, especially linked bonds, which soared 1 percent 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 percent gain but finished 0.6 percent 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 percent loss after starting on a 2 percent gain: turnover was huge at NIS 32 million. Azorim also started in the green and ended in the red, losing 0.4 percent on a volume of NIS 18.4 million. Gazit Globe added 1.3 percent and Alony Hetz succumbed to the blah and lost 0.4 percent.

ILD Insurance rose 3.4 percent on turnover of half a million shekels on the report 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 percent premium for the controlling interest.

The Yeter-30 broad market index started the day with a 2 percent leap skywards but ended only 0.3 percent 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 percent on a volume of NIS 6.4 million; Danya Cebus gained 1.4 percent 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 percent on active trade. Strauss-Elite sank 2.1 percent on turnover of NIS 12 million, after rising 9 percent in the space of two days.

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

Insurance companies also started with a bang and ended with a whimper. Harel ended unchanged and Migdal gained 0.4 percent. Clal Insurance dropped 0.2 percent.