Market Report / Tel Aviv Shares Ended Choppy Day With Gains

Tel Aviv shares ended a turbulent session with a positive bias. The day had opened with gains that disappeared by mid-day, but share prices clawed back to end in the green across the board. All the leading Israeli indexes posted gains, with the biggest advances registered in technology stocks.

The benchmark TA-25 index gained 0.7% to 1,232 points, which is still more than 8% below its peak level at the end of April.

The broader TA-100 index gained 0.7% too to end at 1,113 points. Banks ended a hair under the flatline, and real estate stocks ended a tad above it. Turnover remained thin, however, at NIS 1.4 billion.

In contrast to the cheer in Tel Aviv, European indexes were down across the board, though yet again the losses were fairly minor. Stockholm shares stood out with a 1.5% retreat, but other losses were small.

A possible explanation is that investors had moved on from the vote of confidence in the Greek government, where George Papandreou prevailed. Default is off the table, for the nonce.

Following the vote, the prime minister called on the Greek parliament to approve another austerity and privatization plan amounting to $28 billion over five years. No plan, no European Union aid. The vote on the plan is scheduled for next week.

Moving their attention from Athens, Europe's investors yesterday were depressed over the U.S. Federal Reserve admitting that the American economic recovery is not progressing apace. In fact it lowered its forecasts for growth to a range of 2.7% to 2.9% for 2011. That's compared with 3.1% to 3.3% in its previous estimate.

The Fed, headed by chairman Ben Bernanke, also lowered expectations for 2012. It now sees economic growth next year in the 3.3% to 3.7% range. Previously, in April, the Fed had forecast a pace of 3.5% to 4.2% for 2012.

Did the Fed hint at a third quantitative-easing plan, a QE3, as many have been expecting? It did not.

At least over in Asia, investors applauded the hint of progress in Greece: The leading indexes were positive, with slight dips in China and India. The Nikkei bounced up 1.8% to a three-week high.

The Greek vote impacted the euro, which gained a little ground.

Oil rose 3% yesterday to $113.98 a barrel, lifted by the Fed's pledge to keep interest rates low, and data showing U.S. crude and gasoline stockpiles fell last week

Locally, as the furor over consumer prices rages on, the Central Bureau of Statistics announced sales figures for retail chains in the spring. The figures show that sales increased by 1.2% in the spring months following a 1.2% drop in winter. Moreover, from January to May, adjusted for seasonality, sales increased by 0.9% against the same period of 2010, the bureau said.

Moving to the stock market, shares of Ituran lost 0.7%. The company has to pay $22.7 million to the Leonardo investment fund, the Tel Aviv District Court ruled this week, following an 11-year lawsuit stemming from conversion of bonds into shares in 2000.

The Delek Group was in the spotlight yesterday (see Page 8 for reports ). Shares of parent company Delek Group rose 4.1% and its subsidiary Delek Energy gained 9.4% on reports that there will be a third attempt to delist the company from trading. Delek Drilling ended flat and Avner inched down 0.2%.

Participation units of Givot Oil dropped 4.4%. The company yesterday announced that it would be starting long-term production tests and also revealed that it has been producing 800 barrels of oil a day from its Meged-5 well, as planned.

The investment bank Oppenheimer started coverage of TowerJazz with an Outperform recommendation. Shares of the chipmaker gained 1.7%. (With reporting by Reuters )