Events Could Trigger Sell-off

The events in Egypt are increasing the uncertainty in the Middle East, and could be used as an excuse to trigger a sell-off after months of gains, analysts said yesterday.

Analysts were busy updating their predictions for the dollar, oil, gas, gold, the Israeli stock market and the Israeli bond market, in the wake of the spreading Egyptian protests.

"After months of gains, the stock market is looking for a trigger for sell-offs and it could come from Egypt," said Zvi Stepak, the head investment manager at Meitav. "In previous crises, we saw investors shifting to more secure assets like gold and government bonds. If the situation in Egypt doesn't settle, we'll see price drops for stops and corporate bonds, which are considered more risky," he said.

Stock prices already have dropped sharply over the weekend, while oil prices rose 4% due to concerns that protests could spread to Saudi Arabia, he said. The oil price increase is even sharper in shekel terms, since the shekel is depreciating due to both the central bank's measures to depress it - imposing more conditions on foreign traders - as well as the geopolitical risk Israel faces due to the protests next door.

While Egypt isn't a major oil producer, 1.8 million barrels of oil pass through the Suez Canal every day, said Stepak.