Market Report / Banks Power Ahead in Mixed Market

Israeli shares rose on average turnover yesterday in a rally fueled by relief as the situation in Egypt stabilizes, and bank stocks.

While most leading indexes gained between half a percent to 1%, the Finance-15 index advanced 3%, led north by Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot, whose controlling shareholder Mozi Wertheim snapped up NIS 170 million worth of stock in the bank, sending its share soaring 6.3% on the day's highest turnover, NIS 271 million (see Page 8 ).

European markets were less dramatic. While the benchmark TA-25 index gained 0.6%, European shares were well and truly mixed with a positive bias. But over in Asia, investors were evidently feeling gleeful. Japanese shares gained 1.3% to hit a nine-month high, Hong Kong shares gained 1.7% and Indian and Chinese stocks barreled ahead, each gaining nearly 3%.

The impetus behind the advance in Asia wasn't that peace has descended over the Nile, it was positive Chinese economic data. To wit, China's exports grew 37.7% in January compared with the same month of 2010, and imports rose 51%, state television told the nation yesterday. The result was a trade surplus of $6.5 billion, which was down from $13.1 billion in December.

Back in the Middle East, though disquiet is rumbling in some countries, matters are settling down in Egypt and the Israeli partnerships developing the Tamar gas field are settling down to try to change the terms of an agreement set a year ago with the Israel Electric Corporation. Yet the partners had a bad day on the floor: Delek Drilling fell 1%, Isramco lost 0.8%, Avner fell 1.5% and Delek Energy dipped 0.2%.

TowerJazz fell 2% even though it reported a 34% year-over-year increase in fourth-quarter sales to $135.1 million.

Israel Chemicals fell 1.4% on heavy turnover despite unveiling an agreement to sell half a million tons of potash to China.

The drug companies were in the red: Teva Pharmaceutical Industries dipped 0.2% on turnover of NIS 77 million and Perrigo lost 1.1% on turnover of NIS 29 million. But banks, as said, were in the green. First International Bank of Israel shot up 5% after a spike in late trading.