Market Report / Fiscal Cliff Rescue Lifts TASE

The benchmark TA-25 index of blue chips ended up 0.6% to 1,221.31 points, following a 2.4% jump the day before, while the broader TA-100 gained 0.7% for a close of 1,084.23.

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange extended its fiscal cliff gains for a second session on Wednesday, although the rises were far more modest than on Tuesday and the dollar weakened against the shekel.

The benchmark TA-25 index of blue chips ended up 0.6% to 1,221.31 points, following a 2.4% jump the day before, while the broader TA-100 gained 0.7% for a close of 1,084.23. Turnover was a strong NIS 1.27 billion.

Real estate and energy shares led the market higher. The Real Estate 15 index climbed nearly 2.5% to 321.16, led by Lev Leviev's Africa Israel Investments and Alfred Akirov's Alrov Real Estate. Africa extended its Tuesday gains to advance 4.2% after it completed a bond swap this week that will save it some NIS 100 million while Alrov gained 7.5%.

The Oil and Gas index gained 2.8% to 1,198.18. ILDC Energy soared 17.9% and Modiin by 1.4%. Avner was the most actively traded of the energy stocks, rising 3.7% on turnover of NIS 22.2 million.

Global stock markets surged and commodity prices rallied on Wednesday after the U.S. legislators approved a deal halting a round of automatic fiscal tightening that threatened to push the world's largest economy into recession. The deal to avert the "fiscal cliff" reached on Tuesday kept at bay the immediate pain of tax hikes for almost all U.S. households, but did nothing to resolve other political showdowns on the budget that loom in coming months.

The MSCI all-country world equity index rose nearly 2% - levels last seen in early July 2011. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 rose 1.9% to 1,155.33. The deal boosted investors' appetite for riskier assets and depressed the U.S. dollar against major currencies.

In currency markets, the euro hit $1.3299, the highest in two weeks and not far from an 8 1/2-month high set on December 19. It was last at $1.3248, up 0.3 percent.

The shekel was among those currencies advancing on the dollar. The greenback's Bank of Israel representative rate was set at NIS 3.7140, weakening 0.5% to its lowest value against the Israeli currency in 10 months. The euro gained in the shekel by about 0.1% to a representative rate of NIS 4.9276.

On the TASE, biotech shares also shot up, with Clal Biotechnology jumping 16.4%, making it the biggest gainer among the TA-100 stocks for the day. The life sciences holding company said it was changing its policies about subsidiary companies and would offer to buy minority shareholders in D-Pharm and Bio-Cancell, which had the effect of lifting the stocks of the two units.

Bank shares led the most actives, although they turned in a mixed performance. Bank Leumi edged down 0.l8% although it was the volume leader on Wednesday, with NIS 71.1 million in shares changing hands. Bank Hapoalim was No. 2 with a turnover of NIS 70.3 million, rising 0.3%. First International Bank of Israel was down 0.3% by the close.

Leader Capital Markets said on Wednesday that it continued to see room for more gains in bank shares, even after they rose 23% in 2012, saying that Leumi, Hapoalim and Israel Discount bank are trading at about 15% under their book value.

Among other top gainers in the TA-100 stocks, online translation company Babylon finished 7.6% higher and Nochi Dankner's Discount Investment Corporation rose 5.1%. Chip company Mellanox ended 2.8% higher on turnover of NIS 40.2 million.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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