Market Report / TASE Inches Up as World Shares Dip

Tel Aviv stocks clawed upward yesterday, after starting the day under the flatline. Not that they ended far above it. The benchmark TA-25 index gained less than 0.1% to end at 1,340 points and the broader TA-100 index gained the same, ending at 1,247 points. The MidCap-50 and Biomed indexes were a tad more impressive, gaining 1.1% - and all this on heavy turnover of NIS 2.3 billion.

Bank Leumi shares were responsible for at least some of that, ending flat as a pita after a violent morning lurch - on turnover of NIS 400 million. On Tuesday night the state sold a 5% stake in the bank to UBS (which won a tender to buy the shares ). UBS paid NIS 1.3 billion for the pleasure and promptly moved the stock onward, in large part to nonresident investors, say market insiders.

In world markets, Goldman Sachs, which reported a 53% drop in profits for the fourth quarter of 2010 to $2.2 billion, can take credit for depressing the indexes around the planet, with a few exceptions in Asia. U.S. stocks mostly fell yesterday as disappointing results from Goldman and Wells Fargo deflated hopes for strong bank earnings in the last quarter of 2010.

European markets also swung downward: Screens turned red throughout the continent, with losses ranging from negligible in Madrid to 1.3% down in London, 1.1% in Paris and nearly 2% in Stockholm.

The indexes actually moved inversely from Tel Aviv - they started in the green and gained downward momentum as the session wore on, which traders also blamed on Goldman.

Over in Asia, the performance was more mixed: Japanese and Hong Kong stocks gained ground, China surged but Asia and Indonesia retreated.

Back in Tel Aviv, gas-connected stocks all lost ground thanks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's unqualified support for the Sheshinski Report. For more on that story, see Page 8.

Biomed developer Procognia stole the limelight for a moment there, rising nearly 26% on news that Zahi Sultan and others were buying a controlling interest in the company. Again, see Page 8.

Stem-cell technology company Pluristem sank 6.4% on heavy turnover, following a retreat on Tuesday as well. Still, it's gained 125% from the start of the year. The latest spike of nearly 10% earlier in the week was sparked by the company's announcement that regulators in Europe and the U.S. had agreed to fast-track clinical trials of its technology, which should shorten development time.

With reporting by Reuters and Lior Zeno.