Israeli shares ended mixed on Tuesday as investors on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange awaited with the rest of the world the outcome of a meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve that should signal whether its stimulus program will continue.
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The benchmark TA-25 index edged 0.06% down to 1,228.22 points by the close. The broader TA-100 was a smidgeon higher at 1,102.78. A moderate NIS 995.2 million shares changed hands on the second day of extended trading hours for the TASE.
Israel Chemicals extended its declines after the Finance Ministry said on Monday it had set up a committee to examine policy on royalties collected on natural resources, with ICL the focus of the study. ICL ended 0.7% down, as NIS 158 million in shares changed hands, making it the day's volume leader. Its parent company, Idan Ofer's The Israel Corporation, lost 2.2% on turnover of NIS 22.2 million.
Global equities pushed higher on Tuesday, as investors grew more confident that the Federal Reserve would temper its recent statements on the future reduction of U.S. monetary support while still pointing to economic improvement.
The Federal Reserve meeting, which started Tuesday, has taken on great significance since Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said in May stimulus plans could be scaled back if the U.S. economy gains momentum. The Fed will issue its policy statement on Wednesday, followed by a news conference by Bernanke.
The Standard & Poor's 500 Indexwas up 0.6% at about noon New York time at 1,649.48, while the Nasdaq Composite Indexgained 0.8% to 3,478.42. European sharesprovisionally ended down 0.1%.
The dollar was down 0.2% against a basket of currencies, while the euro rose 0.3% to $1.3406, boosted by improved German investor sentiment.
The dollar resumed its decline against the shekel, too, passing below the NIS 3.60 barrier, as the greenback weakened globally. The U.S. currency weakened 0.2% to a Bank of Israel rate of NIS 3.5940. The euro, however, posted a small rise to NIS 4.8077.
"If Bernanke announces a reduction in the buying program, the dollar is likely to strengthen significantly, but if he doesn't signal anything on the matter, the dollar will continue to lose altitude," said HeziYanushavsky, head of research at ATrade. "The Bank of Israel won’t rush to intervene at this stage. It would prefer to let the market do its part. A breakthrough below NIS 3.50 would change the rules of the game."
Electra, a maker of electro-mechanical equipment, dropped 2.7% in heavy trading of NIS 74.5 million to make it the biggest loser among TA-100 stocks for the session. Its parent company, Elco Holdings, sold some 175,000 shares of Electra stock on Tuesday for NIS 71.8 million.
Biotechnology underwent more than the usual amount of ferment on Tuesday. Icecure Medical soared 113%, after the maker of minimally invasive cryoablation therapies for women reported that Healthcare Service Corporation of the U.S. had begun offering insurance coverage for its IceSense 3 device. Among TA-100 shares, Evogene, a plant genomics company, topped the gainers with a 4.3% advance, while holding company Clal Biotechnology rose 2.9%. Intec Pharma gained 8.9%.
Kamada was off 1.5% by the end of the day, and Pluristem was down 1.9%.
Perrigo, the world's biggest maker of generic over-the-counter drugs, moved up 0.3%. The company said Monday it bought the ophthalmic ointment and solution portfolio ofFera Pharmaceuticalsfor $93 million in cash. Perrigo has been looking for an ophthalmic deal as part of its strategy to expand its presence in the niche topical medication market.
Teva Pharmaceuticals rose 0.5%. On Monday it reportedit is buying MicroDose Therapeutx for an initial payment of $40 million as part of an effort to build its pipeline of respiratory products.
Reuters contributed to this report.