Wall Street played the bear and the bull in Tel Aviv Thursday, leading the market lower most of the day in the wake of New York's drop overnight over concerns about global economic growth, but inspiring a late-in-the-day rebound as futures contracts pointed to gains when the markets reopened.
In the end, the bulls won out. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange's benchmark TA-25 index ended slightly low with a loss of less than 0.1% to close at 1,207.67 points. But most of the TASE ended positive, with the broader TA-100 up almost 0.1% to 1,070.86. Turnover for the day was NIS 716.3 million.
Insurance shares finished strong, with the TA-Insurance index gaining 2% by close to 1,197.06, led by rises of 3.5% for Harel, 2.9% for Menorah and 2.1% for Clal Insurance.
For the week, however, the market was down, with the TA-25 losing 1.3% and the TA-100 1.4%. That cut the TA-25's gain for the year to 1.9%. Against that, the TA-Oil and Gas index gained 1% for the week, bringing its year-to-date increase to 2.9%.
The market slumped Wednesday after the World Bank expressed concern that a slow economic recovery in developed nations is holding back the global economy. It sharply scaled back its forecast for world growth in 2013 to 2.4%, down from an earlier forecast of 3%. The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 0.2%, at 13,511.23.
But on Thursday the mood shifted, with the S&P 500 hitting a five-year intraday high, on improved housing and jobs data, as well as better than expected results from online marketplace eBay. Figures showed that the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell to a five-year low last week, while ground breaking for homes rose to the fastest pace in four years last month.
In foreign currency trading, the dollar lost about 0.3% against the shekel for a Bank of Israel rate of NIS 3.7230. The euro gained 0.3% to NIS 4.9775.
On the TASE, Enlight Energy jumped 21.3% after the developer of energy projects based on renewable sources was informed about the rates it would be paid by Israel Electric Corporation for power produced at its Halutziot project. The power station, using photovoltaic technology, will receive about 62 agorot per kilowatt hour over a 20-year period, based on a decision by Israeli regulators.
Israel Chemicals was the most active share of the day, on NIS 72.6 million and a 0.3% gain. ICl reportedly signed a three-year contract to supply 3.3 million tons of potash to China, reinforcing the company's position as a major supplier to the country. The initial price was set at $400 a ton for 660,000 tons to be supplied during the first half of 2013, worth a total of $264 million.
Among technology shares, Babylon rose 7.1% on the successful launch of its latest online translation program, while semiconductor Mellanox added 2.6%, bringing its rebound over the past month to 23%. The company is expected to post strong fourth-quarter 2012 results next week. Nova Measuring Instruments climbed 6.7% after confirming that it is on track to meet its fourth-quarter earnings projections.
Rami Levy, the discount supermarket chain, dropped 3.3% amid reports that it was weighing quitting the cell phone business and selling it.
BiondVax, a biopharmaceutical company developing a universal flu vaccine, rose as much as 7% Thursday on renewed concerns at an outbreak of swine flu. The stock, nevertheless, retreated to end down 0.6% for the day.
In the bond market, government debt posted sharp drops. Ten-year shekel bonds not linked to the consumer price index dropped 0.34%, to a yield of 3.77%. Inflation-linked 10-year bonds dropped 0.3%, pushing the yield to 1.36%.
The declines came after a week of relative quiet in the government bond market, despite news that last year's budget deficit swelled to NIS 39 billion. Nevertheless, Standard & Poor's said on Thursday that it won't be downgrading Israel's sovereign credit, noting that it wasn't surprised by the size of last year's deficit.
Reuters contributed to this report.