The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange got off to a strong start yesterday, with traders encouraged by Chinese export figures and a rally in Asian shares. But over the course of the session the rises gradually eroded and by the closing bell the market was decidedly mixed.
The TA-25 index of blue-chip stocks finished up 0.13% at 1,219.33 while the broader TA-100 was virtually unchanged at 1,079.24. Turnover was NIS 887.6 million.
Insurance stocks were lower for the day, with the TA-Insurance index down 1.7% at the close at 1,180.70. Harel fell 2.4% and Menorah Insurance 2.1%, making them among the biggest decliners among TA-100 companies.
Property and financial shares led gains in Hong Kong and mainland China markets yesterday following stronger-than-expected Chinese trade data last week and a preliminary report of strong earnings growth at a mid-sized lender.
China's blue-chip CSI300 gained 3% after at one point hitting its highest level since June, while the Shanghai Composite Index rose 3.1% and closed above the psychologically important 2,300 level at 2,312 points.
The euro rose against the dollar for a third straight session yesterday, hitting an 11-month high, as investors continued to embrace the currency on faded expectations of a rate cut from the European Central Bank.
The euro was last up 0.1 percent against the dollar at $1.3354, having earlier risen as high as $1.3403, its strongest since late February 2012, on buying by macro funds, traders said.
Against the shekel, the euro gained nearly 0.5% to a Bank of Israel rate of NIS 4.9885. The dollar retreated 0.2% against the Israeli currency to NIS 3.733.
On the TASE, Nice Systems, the maker of voice and data monitoring systems, rose 6.5% by closing and led the most actives on turnover of NS 68 million, on a report that it was planning to merge with another Israeli technology company, Verint. Nice declined to comment on the report and industry sources said they doubted it would do so. Nevertheless, analysts at Oppenheimer said Nice management was keen on a deal that they believe will increase the two companies' market valuations, which are currently $2.25 billion and $1.36 billion, respectively.
Energy explorer Modiin jumped 23% on heavy trading of NIS 14 million after the National Council for Planning and Building approved drilling at the Gabriella license. The license is 70% owned by Modiin and drilling is budgeted at NIS 92 million.
Queenco Leisure, the gambling and reports company, tumbled 9.6% after CEO Tal Taragon announced on Sunday he was quitting. Taragon, who was named to the post only a year ago, will stay on until April. Over the last nine months the company has lost NIS 92 million and its share has slipped to an all-time low.
In the bond market, corporate bond indices registered declines of as much as 0.13%. The Series D bonds of Elbit Imaging, the real estate company controlled by Moti Zisser, ended down 2.7% in response to concerns by investors that the company will have trouble meeting debt repayments over the next several months.
The TASE said yesterday it planned to launch a bond index comprised of high-yield, high-risk bonds called the Tel Bond-Yield index on February 18. The index will measures bonds with ratings of A to BBB minus. Reuters contributed to this report.