Business Briefs

Mortgages down 17% in holiday-heavy month

Home buyers took out just NIS 3.5 billion in mortgages last month, 17% less than the monthly average of NIS 4.2 billion in the previous 12 months, the Finance Ministry said. The drop is likely due to the many Jewish holidays during the month and does not point to a trend. In fact, mortgage activity for the month was 8% higher than in September last year. In 2012 some of the holidays fell in October. Another possible contributing factor was a new Bank of Israel directive that came into force at the beginning of September prohibiting banks from issuing new mortgages on which monthly payments exceed 50% of the borrower's income. (Sivan Aizescu)

Prime minister chimes in on high food prices

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he wants food prices to come down and has instructed Harel Locker, the director general of his office, to report on steps taken by the government to facilitate food imports. "Food prices can be and must be lowered," Netanyahu said. "Reducing food prices is one of the goals I have set for the current government." One way to do this, he said, was to open the market to imports. The prime minister also expressed his support for agricultural research and development as a means of promoting exports and higher productivity. (Ora Coren and Moti Bassok)

Israel's trade deficit on target to narrow for 2013

Israel's merchandise trade deficit looks set to narrow this year to NIS 54.2 billion from 2012's yawning gap of NIS 70.4 billion, Central Bureau of Statistics data released Sunday showed. Israel posted a NIS 4.2 billion trade deficit in September, bringing the nine-month total to NIS 40.7 billion, or NIS 54.2 billion in annual terms, the CBS said. Exports, however, declined at a 17.4% annual rate in the July-September period, slowing somewhat from an 18.4% pace of decline in the previous three months. Exports of high–tech products were down an annualized 11.9%, continuing a 30.7% drop in the previous three months. Imports, meanwhile, accelerated, climbing at an 11.4% annual rate in July-September from a 4.2% pace in the previous three months. (Moti Bassok)