Market Report / IMF Forecast Hits Stocks

Buyers seem to be on the fence before the summit of euro zone finance ministers, wondering about the next steps for dealing with Greece and Spain's economic woes.

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Tel Aviv stocks opened the short trading week lower yesterday as markets around the globe were hit by the International Monetary Fund's lower projection for global economic growth.

Buyers seem to be on the fence before the summit of euro-zone finance ministers, wondering about the next steps for dealing with Greece and Spain's economic woes.

The benchmark Tel Aviv-25 index shed 1.5% to end the day at 1,207.55 points, while the broader Tel Aviv-100 closed 1.6% lower at 1,069.24. Bucking the trend, the Banks-5 index rose 0.9%. Total turnover was a brisk NIS 1.32 billion. On the corporate bond front, the Tel Bond-60 dropped 0.4%.

On Monday, the IMF lowered its outlook for the world economy and warned that unless leaders in Europe and the United States take additional action, a further slowing is in the offing.

In a mid-year health check of the world economy, the IMF said emerging market nations, long a global bright spot, were being dragged down by the economic turmoil in Europe. It said a drop in exports in these countries would combine with earlier policies meant to prevent overheating and slow growth more sharply than hoped.

The IMF shaved its 2013 forecast for global growth to 3.9% from the 4.1% it projected in April, trimming projections for most advanced and emerging economies. It left its 2012 forecast unchanged at 3.5%.

For Israel, the fund projects 2.9% growth for this year and 3.2% for 2013. It sees inflation at 2% for each of the two years, with unemployment at 7% in both 2012 and 2013.

Leader Capital Markets says that due to positive Israeli macroeconomic data, the sharp rise in housing prices and the easing of concerns about an attack on Iran, it doesn't expect the Bank of Israel to lower interest rates at the end of the month.

Among stocks, Clal Finance analyst Jonathan Kreizman lowered his recommendation for Israel Chemicals to Market Perform.

He said he cut the stock despite Clal's stance "preferring ICL over the sector and question marks over demand from India and China in 2013." Since the end of June, ICL shares have climbed 20%. Yesterday, however, they declined 4.4%.

Also yesterday, Can Fite Biopharma gained 6.6% after the company said it was expanding its trials for a new psoriasis drug following positive interim results. Shares of Intec Pharma jumped 9% after it successfully completed Phase II trials on a drug for patients with advanced Parkinson's disease.

Better Place, the electric car infrastructure firm controlled by The Israel Corporation, is seeking $150 million after losing $132 million in the first half. At the end of June it had $131 million in cash and cash equivalents. Israel Corp. shares fell 3.1%.

Elsewhere, EZ Energy said its EZ USA subsidiary had completed a deal to sell most of its American operations for $62.3 million, some of which will be used to pay bondholders. The stock dropped 7.1%.

Gazit Globe fell 2% even though Fitch upgraded its credit rating for the company's subsidiary Atrium European Real Estate by one notch, to BBB-minus from BB+. Meanwhile, Gazit's North American subsidiary Equity One yesterday signed an agreement to buy four properties in New York and Maryland for $260 million.

With reporting by Reuters.

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Credit: Ofer Vaknin