TASE Ends Sunday Mixed, Though Telco Shares Plunge

EU approval of drug for treating chemotherapy side-effects lifts Teva by just under 3%

Tel Aviv shares finished mixed on Sunday, with Teva Pharmaceuticals and Israel Chemicals ending strongly higher while technology and telecommunications stocks plunged.

The tug-of-war ended with the benchmark TA-25 index virtually unchanged, down just 0.01% to 1,202.75 points, while the broader TA-100 edged 0.03% higher to 1,098.02. Turnover was NIS 494.4 million, not a particularly low figure for a Sunday this year, especially one in the middle of the August vacation season.

Teva led the most active stocks, rising 2.9% by close on turnover of NIS 56.6 million, after it reported late last week that the European Commission had approved Lonquex, its treatment for chemotherapy-induced neutropenia, a common side effect of chemotherapy treatment characterized by a decreased level of white blood cells. The approval provides the regulatory framework for commercializing Lonquex in all 28 EU countries.

ICL extended the gains it has enjoyed since last Wednesday, when it unveiled a strategic plan to cut costs and focus on higher value-added products. ICL on Sunday added 3.4% while its parent company, Idan Ofer's Israel Corporation, advanced 3%.

Wall Street closed out its worst week since June on Friday, pulling back from record highs as investors focused on when the Federal Reserve will start to wind down its stimulus program, while the dollar rebounded from a seven-week low. Signs of stabilization in China's economy, however, supported European stocks.

The Dow Jones industrial average ended down 0.5% at 15,425.51. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index lost 0.25% to 3,660.11. But Europe's broad FTSE Eurofirst 300 index gained 0.6% as the data out of China lifted stocks of mining companies higher. 

In foreign currency trading, the dollar weakened further against the shekel on Friday, marking an 0.25% drop to a Bank of Israel rate of NIS 3.53. The euro was down just over 0.1% to NIS 4.7234.

"The balance of forces that are pressuring the shekel to appreciate are likely to grow stronger in the short term, if it becomes evident that the new leadership at the Bank of Israel does not put the exchange rate at the center of its attention, as did Stanley Fischer," said Rafi Gozlan, chief economist at IBI Israel Brokerage & Investments.

In TASE trading, telecommunications shares were down sharply, with the TA-Telecommunications index plummeting 3.2% to 652.43. Bezeq led the way lower, shedding 3.7%, followed by Cellcom Israel with a 2.4% drop and Partner Communications, which fell 1.8%.

Technology shares also sank. The TA-BlueTech index finished 1.1% lower at 309.15, paced by a 6.3% nosedive by Allot Communications. Ceragon dropped 4.4% and Babylon by 4.1%.

Lev Leviev's Africa Israel Investments climbed 3.7% by close, after its AFI Development unit reported on Friday that first half revenues, including net proceeds from the sale of trading properties, doubled year-on-year to $123.9 million as net profit reachedS$43.3 million, reversing a net loss of $240.6 million a year ago.

Discount Investment Corporation led the TA-100 for gains on Sunday, adding 5.1% after it released terms for the purchase of shares in Koor Industries from the public and its parent company IDB Development Corporation. Koor shares jumped 6.4% and IDB Holding Corporation 6.5%. The merger will provide IDB Development with badly-needed cash.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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