Market Report / Stocks Edge Down on Paper-thin Volume

The markets were edgy Monday, as Washington fails to raise debt limit and following Moody's decision to cut Greece's credit rating further.

Israeli stocks pulled back yesterday on tiny turnover, typical of summer and seasons of pervasive uncertainty on the markets. Share prices the world round slumped yesterday, with rare exception: Frankfurt's benchmark DAX index closed 0.3% above the flatline, while in Asia, the Thomson Reuters Equity India Index jumped 0.7%.

But the markets were edgy. The dollar weakened to a record low against the Swiss franc and a four-month trough versus the yen Monday, as Washington continued to deadlock a deal that would raise the U.S. debt ceiling, sending investors scurrying for currencies viewed as safe havens. For the same reason, gold also swung upward to a record high: Spot gold hit $1,622.49 an ounce.

Greece - AP - 26072011

Also weighing on markets was Moody's decision to cut Greece's credit rating further into junk territory. Moody's said it was almost certain to slap a default tag on Greek debt as a result of a new EU rescue package.

Back here in the Holy Land, the benchmark TA-25 index lost 0.5%, to 1,260 points, while the broader TA-100 also fell 0.5%, to 1,144 points. There were no exceptions and no dramas: All the leading indexes began the day well under water, crept toward the flatline and receded back, to close in the red - but not by much. Tech and biomed stocks both ended the day with a loss of 0.1%. Total turnover was a wee NIS 1.1 billion.

Two companies in the spotlight were Delek Real Estate, controlled by energy and real-estate magnate Yitzhak Tshuva, and Tao Tsuot, controlled by Ilan Ben-Dov. Both had borrowed heavily during the fat years and both are laden with debt and properties worth less than they originally paid. Delek Real Estate stock fell 7% as the board announced its proposal to sweeten interest on its bonds, in exchange for half a year's grace (see Page 8 for more on that story ). Delek Real Estate's B25 bonds lost 9.3% on heavy turnover of NIS 5.7 million.

But for you bears out there, Yair Drori, chief analyst at Tachlit-Discount, thinks that after the summer doldrums are over, share prices will resume their rally until year-end. One couldn't expect a trend to develop during the summer, he told TheMarker yesterday, but all in all the markets were pretty stable. Most of the weak of nerve had already slipped out of the market, he said.

Drori anticipates that the banks will deliver strong financial statements for the second quarter of 2010; he therefore thinks investors would do well there, especially given the lack of safe alternatives while interest rates stay low. But he isn't keen on telecom stocks these days, suspecting that the full impact of being forced to lower their mobile termination fees hasn't hit their results yet.

Yesterday, shares of Bank Hapoalim fell 1.2% on turnover of NIS 84 million; Bank Leumi lost 1% on turnover of NIS 84 million; Mizrahi-Tefahot beat the blah with an 0.4% gain; and Discount finished with a slight positive bias.

Moving onto the telecom pack, their performance was mixed: Bezeq lost 1.1%, Cellcom gained 1% and Partner Communications lost 0.7%.

Partner is also controlled by Ilan Ben-Dov, mentioned above. Shares of his other company, the one seeking a debt arrangement, Tao Tsuot, were unchanged.

Among Israel's blue chips, trading was selective. Drug company Perrigo lost 0.6% despite announcing U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of its version of a cinnamon-flavored nicotine gum, to help kick the habit.