Market Report

Israel Chemicals Leads TASE Rally

Tech shares slump, led by EZchip.

Tel Aviv shares jumped yesterday, lifted by Israel Chemicals, a higher Wall Street over the weekend and an agreement between the United States and Russia to dismantle Syria's chemical arms.

ICL jumped 6.4% and led the most actives on turnover of NIS 90.6 million after reports surfaced that tycoon Suleiman Kerimov would sell his major stake in Russian potash producer Uralkali to investor Vladimir Kogan. The Potash Corp. gain reflected optimism that a change in Uralkali's ownership might lead to it rejoining fellow potash producer Belaruskali in an export partnership.

ICL's parent company soared 9% on the new as NIS 22.7 million in shares changed hands.

The benchmark TA-25 index climbed 1.9% to a close of 1,225.80 points while the broader TA-100 added 1.6% to 1,112.16, on turnover of NIS 826 million. Yesterday’s gains mark a rally on the TASE that began when worries about a U.S. attack on Syria faded. The TA-25 has risen more than 4% this month, besting its performance over the first seven months of the year.

"The geopolitical risk is disappearing as the risks of an attack on Syria decline. In our view the share market will continue to be positive in the near term," said Assaf Shaul, deputy CEO for investments at Alfa Platinum Mutual Funds. "We prefer full exposure to stocks keeping positions both in local equities and foreign ones."

U.S. stocks rose on Friday and the Dow registered its best weekly gain since January, helped by a rise in Intel, though trading was subdued ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's expected reduction of stimulus measures next week.

The Dow Jones industrial average finished 0.5% higher at 15,376.06. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 0.3% to 1,687.99 and the Nasdaq Composite index 0.2% to at 3,722.18.

Meanwhile, European equities advanced for a second straight week and recorded a new three-and-a-half-month high, with merger and acquisition activity in the healthcare and media sectors underpinning the stock market. The FTSEurofirst 300 index rose 0.2% to 1,250.26 points.

In TASE trading, the Tel-Bond 20, 40 and 60 indices showed gains of up to 0.23%. The government's 10-year Shahar bond advanced 0.12% while its inflation-indexed Galil bond for the same term edged up 0.05%.

Israeli financials rally

Although the Bank of Israel issued a report warning of growing mortgage risks, financial stocks rallied yesterday. Israel Discount Bank advanced 2.7%, while Bank Leumi closed 1.7% higher on turnover of NIS 40.4 million and Bank Hapoalim added 1.5% on turnover of NIS 37 million.

Insurance stocks saw even sharper gains, with the TA-Insurance index up 2.3% to 1,424.79. Menorah was up 4.5% at the finish, Phoenix ahead 3.4% and Harel up 2.4%. The TA-Oil and Gas index jumped 3.5% to 1,238.62, led by Shemen after one of its controlling shareholders, Avraham Nanikashvili, exercised an option to increase his stake to 10.4% from 9.6%. Other gainers included Delek Drilling, which rose 3.6% by closing, and Ratio, which added 2.4%. Yitzhak Tshuva's Delek Group climbed 4.3%.

Among the biggest losers in yesterday’s trading, biotech company Protalix sunk 10.1% after it sold $60 million of convertible bonds at the end of last week. EZchip, which makes Ethernet network processors for networking equipment, dropped 3%, extending a 20.7% slide last Thursday after its largest customer, the U.S. technology giant Cisco said it had introduced a new integrated network processor, which might reduce its demand for EZchip products.

Kardan Israel closed up 1.7% after its board approved a plan to merge its Avis rent-a-car unit into sister company UMI, the Israeli importers of general Motors vehicles. Kardan Auto rose 0.9%.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Hagai Fried