The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange closed slightly higher on Monday following three sessions of declines, but there was almost no one to celebrate the upturn, with trading volume remaining deep in the doldrums.
The TA-25 index of blue chips stocks climbed 0.2% to 1,228.42 points and the broader TA-100 added nearly another 0.3% to 1,093.60, but turnover was a mere NIS 669.2 million, albeit almost double Sunday's volume.
Most sectors saw little change, with the exception of telecommunications. The TA-Communications index finished up 1.3%, led by Partner Communications on a 3.5% rise, Cellcom Israel on a gain of 2.9% and Bezeq's 1.2% increase.
Investor attention was directed more at the foreign currency markets, where the Bank of Israel intervened to buy dollars for the first time in nearly two years. The effort, however, was of little effect, with the dollar weakening 0.25% to a Bank of Israel rate of NIS 3.6180. The euro did better, advancing more than 0.5% to NIS 4.7101.
European shares were led higher by the healthcare sector on Monday as investors tiptoed back into the market, evidenced by low trading volumes. The FTSEurofirst 300 provisionally closed up 0.2% at 1,163.96 points. On Wall Street, stocks waned as investors faced the prospect of a lackluster corporate earnings season and an economy that could be hitting a slow patch. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was off 0.2% at 1,550.53 and the Nasdaq Composite down 0.1% to 3,200.52 at mid-morning New York time.
In the local bond market, 10-year shekel bonds, which are not linked to the consumer price index, jumped 0.46%, lowering yields to 3.77%. The yield decline came despite the fact that the treasury reported on Monday that its deficit jumped to NIS 4.6 billion in the first quarter from NIS 1.6 billion a year earlier. Nine-year linked bonds fell 0.03%, leaving them with yields of 1.44%.
"We've been seeing a positive trend for shekel bonds recently, in contrast to inflation-linked bonds," explained Dudi Reznick, head of research at Leumi Capital Markets. "This reflects the feeling among investors that the Bank of Israel will leave the interest rate unchanged, so that forecasts for inflation are falling."
He said investors have also been encouraged by Finance Minister Yair Lapid's first two major decisions – moving to the annual budget against starting in 2015 and appointing Yael Andorn as his director general.
Ceragon led TA-100 shares lower, falling 8.2%. The maker of wireless backhaul equipment said on Monday that it expects first-quarter revenues to be in the range of $89 million to $91 million, well below the company's guidance of $95 million to $105 million. It said non-GAAP earnings would range between losses of 15 to 18 cents a share.
Sapiens, a maker of software for the financial services industry, rose 1.5% after it said it won a contract from a Texas insurer. The company didn't value the sale, but sources said it was between NIS 6 million and NIS 8 million.
Israel Chemicals rose 1.4% on turnover of nearly NIS 34 million. A government attorney told a labor court in a hearing over sanctions that ICL employees are imposing that the government is not engaged currently in any talks with Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan about the Canadian company's offer to buy a controlling stake in ICL.
Among other big gainers on Monday, Clal Biotechnology advanced 5.2%, the most of any TA-100 stocks. Delek Auto rose 4.6% and TowerJazz gained 4.3%, building on a 3.5% rise from the previous day. Teva Pharmaceuticals led the most actives on turnover of NIS 42 million, gaining 0.4%.
With reporting by Reuters.
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