Market Report / Ampal Drops 7.5% as Tel Aviv Stocks Buck Dour World Trend

Trading in both Israel and Europe was highly selective and turnover was paper-thin as investors anxiously analyzed the news.

Tel Aviv stocks rebounded to gain more than 1% yesterday, unlike the many European markets that fell back after their comeback attempt.

Trading in both Israel and Europe was highly selective and turnover was paper-thin as investors anxiously analyzed the news - such as Fitch's announcement Friday that it might downgrade France and six other euro zone countries because a comprehensive solution to the region's debt crisis is "technically and politically beyond reach."

Not the news investors wanted to hear. As for the demise of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, announced by Pyongyang yesterday, that was ascribed responsibility for the dollar gaining ground as a safe haven in times of mounting uncertainty. The euro was also hit by Moody's downgrade Friday of Belgium's rating by two notches to Aa3 from Aa1.

Back at home, the benchmark TA-25 index climbed 1.2% to 1,099 points and the broader TA-100 index gained 0.9% to 992 points. Total turnover was a tiny thing at less than a billion shekels.

The liveliest stock on the Tel Aviv dance floor was Israel Chemicals, which rose 2.5% on turnover of NIS 153 million. Shares of parent company Israel Corporation gained 2.8%.

The reason for the flurry is that Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, the bellwether company in the global potash sector, wants to increase its ICL stake to 25%. It needs Israeli government permission to do so. (See page 8. )

Also in the spotlight were companies associated with beleaguered businessman Ilan Ben-Dov. Developments are moving fast and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange suspended trading in associated securities for a while. Scailex stock fell around 4%.

Among yesterday's announced developments is a deal for gaming billionaire Teddy Sagi to buy 50% of Suny's Samsung import activities for NIS 300 million. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries ended a fraction lower. Wall Street guru Jim Cramer thinks Teva has bottomed out and meanwhile the Israeli generic drug giant is selling the production facility of its Mepha AG for $94 million.

Ampal lost 7.5% as saboteurs just keep blowing up the pipeline bringing Egyptian gas to Israel. It happened for the tenth time on Sunday, not that the supply had resumed after the ninth attack. Ampal's bonds have reached triple-digit figures. Somebody doesn't think the company will be repaying its bondholders.