Market Report / Israeli Stocks Dip Below Flatline in Afternoon Selloff

Israeli stocks ended a choppy trading day below water, after a sudden late-afternoon dip into the red.

Throughout the session, Tel Aviv blue-chips had been in the green. What happened? Possibly, a selloff in participation units and shares of the Leviathan partners, suggests Daniel Rapoport, head of international trading at Excellence international equities desk.

"There were media reports that the companies will apparently need to raise more money in order to continue their tests and drilling," he explained. While any issuance will be after the Passover holiday, pressure on these shares means pressure on the leading indexes, on which they have become heavyweights.

Despite the uptrend in world markets, the benchmark Tel Aviv-25 Index finished 0.04% lower. In other words it finished just a hair under the flatline, but the losers included Delek Drilling with a loss of 1.1% on turnover of NIS 14 million and Delek Group with a drop of 0.5% on turnover of NIS 23 million. The broader Tel Aviv-100 Index finished 0.1% lower as Leviathan partner Ratio Oil Exploration tumbled 5.6% on heavy volume of NIS 188 million. Ratio had the TA-100's sharpest lost and the TASE's highest turnover yesterday.

In world markets, oil bounced back above $122 yesterday, partly reversing a deep sell-off, as talks on Libya opened up divisions among foreign powers seeking a solution to the violence wracking the OPEC member. The two-day selloff had been driven by comments by representatives of consumer countries that high prices had begun to depress consumption and after Goldman Sachs surmised that oil, which spiked above $127 on Monday, looked overdone (See brief, page 8 ).

Still on commodities, gold rose in Europe yesterday, recovering after its biggest one-day drop in nearly a month as the dollar retreated amid expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve will be maintaining its accommodative monetary policy for now.

European markets rose almost across the board yesterday (with the exception of Copenhagen ), not gaining much - less than 1% - but still in tandem. In Asia, the gains were more selective than in Europe: Indian shares gained 1.8% and Chinese stocks gained 1.3%.

Back in the Holy Land, total turnover on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange was on the heavy side at NIS 2 billion. The second-liveliest share yesterday was Israel Chemicals, which dropped by 1.4% on turnover of NIS 161 million. Workers of ICL's Dead Sea Works division will be getting bonuses for 2010 totaling about NIS 65 million after the company dropped the decision to deduct damage it suffered from their 40-day strike.

The cellular companies were mixed: Partner Communications dropped 0.2%, but Cellcom gained 0.7% as their industry shakes and quakes as competition rears its head (See story, page 12 ).

Elbit Systems lost 0.4% despite announcing expansion of its relations with the Brazilian defense group Embraer (See brief, page 8 ).

Shares of Bank Mizrahi Tefahot dropped 0.7% even though the bank had tripled its bond offering yesterday to NIS 1 billion, spurred by strong demand. Mizrahi had planned to raise NIS 300 million in an offering of two series of bonds but institutional investors pre-committed to buying NIS 1.3 billion worth.

With reporting by Reuters.