The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange ended lower Wednesday, shrugging off Wall Street's record-high close Tuesday to follow global stock markets lower. Energy shares led the decline.
The benchmark TA-25 index closed down 0.2%, at 1,239.79 points, while the broader TA-100 lost less than 0.1% to finish at 1,103.59 points, on slim trading volume of NIS 874.5 million. Among the most active shares, Israel Chemicals dropped 0.78% on turnover of NIS 66.3 million and Bezeq gained 1.2% on trading volume of NIS 59.5 million.
Major stock markets and the U.S. dollar fell on Wednesday after a report that U.S. private employers added 158,000 jobs in March, the smallest gain in five months and falling short of economists' expectations.
The news dented some of the optimism about the world's largest economy, causing Europe's FTSE EuroFirst 300 to lose 0.5% after surging 1.3% Tuesday, with heavy falls in the telecoms and mining sectors. The MSCI world index slipped 0.2% to 359.42 points. On Wall Street, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell 0.38%, to 1,564.24 and the Nasdaq Composite 0.27% to 3,246.15 in late morning trading.
The dollar index, which measures the greenback versus a basket of currencies, dropped 0.3% to 82.697 as the euro rose 0.3% to $1.2856. The European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan are both expected to make monetary policy announcements on Thursday.
Both currencies posted new losses against the shekel, with the dollar shedding about 0.06% to a Bank of Israel rate of NIS 3.61680 and the euro weakening by 0.2% to NIS 4.6388.
First International Bank of Israel dropped 2.4% in heavy trading of NIS 62.6 million after Zadik Bino's FIBI Holdings, the lender's parent company, sold a block of shares equal to 5.2% of the bank for NIS 270 million to a group of institutional investors.
Babylon, the online translation company, jumped 5.7%, making it the biggest gainer among TA-100 index stocks. The rise came on reports that the company's strategy of shifting collaboration from Google to Yahoo is gaining momentum and that Yahoo now accounts for about half the searches done through Babylon.
Idan Ofer's holding company, the Israel Corporation, declined 2.5% on news that its wholly owned Zim Integrated Shipping Services unit had begun talks with bondholders over its business plan for the next five years. News reports said that Zim management is weighing plans to convert some debt into equity.
Energy shares continued lower, with the TA-Oil and Gas index off 1.2% to 1,170.85 points even as production began at the Tamar natural gas field this week. David Kaplan, an analyst at Barclay's, revised his net asset values for the Tamar partners higher, saying, "We continue to see upside across the sector and in particular in Isramco. Isramco owns a 29% working interest in Tamar and has minimal future capital projects on the horizon."
Despite that, Isramco was down 1.4% for the day, with its Tamar partners Avner and Delek Drilling down 2.9% and 1.7%, respectively.
Hadasit Bio, a startup holding company, soared 36.6% after it said its 92%-owned Enlivex unit said its ApoCell for treatment in the acute phase of disease was awarded orphan drug status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That will give Enlivex seven-year marketing exclusivity for the drug.
With reporting from Reuters.