Market Report / Israeli Stocks Swing Up on Heavy Trading

Stocks swung back up around much of the world yesterday as investors grew less panicky about the crisis in Egypt and settled down to discussing concerns about the possible spread of unrest and the ramifications for global trade if the Suez Canal were to be blocked.

Gold pulled back yesterday following its biggest one-day gain of the year, as equities steadied after Friday's losses. Israeli shares gained ground, and U.S. stocks opened in the green. European shares clawed back from a three-week low to end mixed, and the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 ended flat.

The STOXX Europe 600 oil and gas index was among the biggest gaining sectors, up 0.8%. Of course, not all analysis leads to happy conclusions. Oil yesterday jumped above $100 per barrel for the first time since 2008 on concerns that the unrest in Egypt could spread to other Middle East oil producing countries and disrupt Suez Canal traffic. Indeed, Asian exchanges retreated in tandem, as investors continued to dwell on Egypt-related concerns.

Israeli stocks finished in the green after a choppy session marked by swings around the flatline. All the indexes except for the Finance-15 gained ground, but the differentials indicated intense selectivity. While the benchmark TA-25 index of large-cap shares gained 0.8%, for instance, tech stocks powered ahead by 2.6%. But the Tel-Div index, comprised of the 20 shares on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange that deliver the highest dividend yields, gained a mere 0.2%.

A closer look at the Tel-Div shows again intense selectivity. Ashtrom Properties for instance sank 1.5%, but Clal Industries gained 3%, while its sister company Discount Investment retreated by 0.3%. Even though the mobile operators have to stop charging exit fines for customers who back out of contracts from today, Cellcom gained 1.5%.

Tel Aviv stocks had begun the day with gains, which disappeared as the morning wore on. By mid-afternoon the green screens were back. Total turnover was very heavy, about double the normal, at NIS 3.4 billion.

The bond market was characterized yesterday by heavy selling, among local and foreign investors alike, which lowered Israeli fixed-income government bonds by 0.3%. Linked bonds were steadier and ended yesterday mixed.

Some feel events in Egypt were an excuse for a downward correction, after months of gains ub equities. Ayelet Nir, the chief economist at IBI, has a different take on the issue: The uproar across the border, she wrote in her weekly review, is a painful reminder that we live in the Middle East, and investors tend to forget to price in this risk premium. As for Israeli stocks, among the oil and gas exploration pack, where fortunes could be intensely affected by developments in Egypt, trading was mixed and intensely volatile yesterday. The gainers included Avner, up 3% on heavy turnover of NIS 32 million; Delek Drilling and Delek Energy, each up more than 2%; and Alon Gas, which added 1.7%. Isramco gained 1.6%.

Among the losers was Givot Olam, which tumbled nearly 10% on enormous turnover (again ) of NIS 123 million. Midroog placed Ampal American on credit watch, and the company's stock sank 2.5%. Ampal is the vehicle through which energy baron Yossi Maiman controls his stake in the mostly Egyptian gas corporation EMG.