Market Report / Bank Stocks Weigh on Israeli Indexes

A pullback by bank shares dragged down the Tel Aviv indexes yesterday, in a session marked by a slow and steady drop from positive territory to the red.

World markets were characterized by the latest round of eurojitters and even gold dropped for the fourth day in a row as worries mounted and the euro weakened.

Finally both the Israeli and European indexes closed with a mild negative bias, on turnover that refuses to pick up. In Tel Aviv the benchmark TA-25 index lost 0.3% to 1,143 points. The broader TA-100 index lost 0.1% to 1,051 points.

Total turnover remained feeble at NIS 952 million, after a brief upswing the day before, thanks to a stampede for telecom stocks.

Over in Europe, results were decidedly selective but the trend was negative. UK shares finished a hair below the flatline, but French and German stocks took more of a beating, finishing more than 1% in the red.

The Madrid General Index lost more than 3% as world leaders mull how best to stabilize the Spanish economy.

For their part, Spanish leaders spent much of yesterday hashing out an agreement with local authorities on cutting state healthcare, a move likely to spur protests among a population weary of EU-enforced austerity to tackle a ballooning deficit.

Back at home, bank stocks lost ground as investors remembered that a downturn in the debt crisis in Europe could hurt Israeli banks as well. Discount Bank fell 2.4% and Hapoalim lost 1.3%, while Leumi dropped by 0.6%.

Telecom stocks held their own, not substantially correcting downward from the quantum leap on Tuesday.

Bezeq gained another 0.5% following on its 7.5% jump Tuesday; turnover in the phone company's stock remained high at NIS 167 million.

Its parent company, B Communications, lost 1.4%, but then it had risen 27% on Tuesday.

Internet Gold, which is expected to merge with Bezeq, gained another 8% yesterday, following its 15.3% gain the day before.

The cellular pack also continued to enjoy the upbeat sentiment for telecoms stocks.

Cellcom gained 6% after having done much of nothing the day before.

Partner Communications added 2.5%.

The HOT cable TV company on the other hand lost 5%, after investors learned that it will have to stop marketing its flagship product, triple-play (Internet, telephone and television service ) bundled together at a discount. It can still sell people all three services, just not for a discount.

Biomed also swanned in the spotlight for a second day. Redhill gained 4.6%, following its 30% leap on Tuesday, but Brainsway retreated by 2% yesterday after its 19% jump the day before. (See story, Page 8.)

In an oddity, Delek Real Estate stock gained 14%. The company has said it won't oppose liquidation by bondholders who don't appreciate the debt settlement it's been suggesting.

But representatives of all its series of bonds, and of the company itself, met to resume negotiations after all. It isn't in the bondholders' best interest necessarily to head for liquidation, as Delek Real Estate has warned they stand to lose 92% of their money, whereas the debt arrangement it proposes would only lose them a third to half their money.

Choices, choices.

With reporting by Ram Ozeri.