Even with some heavy lifting by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Bezeq and Israel Chemicals, the TA-25 index barely posted a gain on Tuesday as liquidity remained in the doldrums.
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Teva ended 2% higher on a turnover of NIS 55.9 million, making it the session's volume leader. Israel Chemicals added 1.7% on heavy trading of NIS 40.7 million after UBS forecast second-quarter earnings of 24 cents a share thanks to higher potash sales to China. Bezeq rose 1.5% with NIS 35.3 million in shares changing hands.
But all that couldn't make the benchmark index scratch out a gain of even 0.1%. The TA-25 index ended the day at 1,130.79 points, a rise of just 0.07%, while the broader TA-100 finished 0.03% higher at 1,1122.52. Just NIS 760 million in shares changed hands.
Put the blame on financial stocks. Among banks, Mizrahi-Tefahot ended down 1.9%, First International dropped 1.8% and Leumi 1.3%. Insurance stocks also took it on the chin; Clal Insurance fell 1.6%, Migdal 1.2%, Menorah 1.1% and Phoenix 1%.
World stock prices climbed closer to five-year highs on Tuesday, supported by signs that China was moving to avoid a hard landing for its slowing economy, while the dollar hovered at its one-month low as a recent selloff slowed. Major U.S. equity indexes opened higher on news of solid earnings from chemical maker DuPont and insurer Travelers.
The MSCI world equity index climbed 0.3% to 376.53, within about six points of its five-year high set in May. In mid-morning trading, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.01% at 15,547.50, while the Standard & Poor's 500 was down 0.2% at 1,691.41. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index provisionally closed down by 0.2% at 1,208.41.
In foreign currency trading, the dollar's Bank of Israel rate held steady from the day before at NIS 3.5710, while the euro edged up less than 0.1% to NIS 4.7057.
"Only massive intervention or the imposition of a tax will weaken the shekel. Until then, manufacturers and exporters will continue to feel the pressure of a strong currency on their profitability," said Gideon Ben-Nun, CEO of Agio Risk Management & Financial Decisions. "We expect will see such steps in the coming months."
Ceragon rose 3.4% after the maker of wireless backhaul equipment said that Vivo, a subsidiary of Telefonica Brasil, had selected it as its wireless backhaul partner for the next phase of its nationwide LTE network ahead of the 2014 World Cup in a $6 million deal. PhotoMedex, a maker of home skin-care devices, advanced 2.1% after investment house Sidoti rated its shares a Buy with a target price of $25. They were trading at $16.05 on the Nasdaq Monday.
Big losers on Tuesday included Discount Investment Corporation's 2.3% drop after the Israel Securities Authority said it had transferred its probe on controlling shareholder Nochi Dankner's alleged share-price manipulation to the state prosecutor.
Silicom slumped badly for a second day in a row, shedding 8.6% after the stock was downgraded by Maxim Group from a Buy to a Hold with a price target of $32 versus a New York closing on Monday of $36.59.
With reporting by Reuters.