Passover ended Monday night in Israel, but the holiday spirit pervaded the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, with trading volume thin, as it was during the weeklong festival, and the market showing little direction.
"Trading on the Tel Aviv bourse continued without direction, just like it did during the intermediate days of Passover," said Ariel Mazuz, investment manager at Prico Management. "Turnover wasn't high, which some people are saying is due to fence-sitting while they wait and see what happens with the state budget."
While equities trading was quiet, the dollar reached its lowest since October 2011, weakening 0.8% to a Bank of Israel rate of NIS 3.62. The euro lost 0.3% against the Israeli currency, to a rate of NIS 4.6483.
But Yossi Friedman, also of Prico, said he doubted the shekel would continue to strengthen appreciably, at least for the short term, and that if it did the Bank of Israel would step in. The longer term, he said, is a different story.
"It appears that the beginning of natural gas production as the Tamar field is contributing to the shekel's strength," said Friedman. "Israel Electric Corporation is now expected to reduce its purchases of foreign currency [for fuel imports], a development that will increase the supply of foreign currency and cause the shekel to appreciate."
Major stock markets rose on Tuesday, with the U.S. Standard & Poor's 500 index nearing its all-time intraday high, while the euro slipped against the dollar after data showed manufacturing across theeuro zonecontracted further last month.
Europe's FTSEurofirst 300 index gained 1.3%, to 1204.49, while the broad MSCI World equity index rose 0.6%, to 360.49 points. On Wall Street, the S&P 500 rose 0.7%, to 1,572.89, while the NasdaqComposite Index added 0.83%, to 3,265.98.
On the TASE, Teva Pharmaceuticals was the most active stock on turnover of NIS 53.9 million. Its shares edged 0.2% higher, despite a statement by the Swiss chemical and biotechnology company Lonza that it is reviewing whether it is still worth investing in its joint venture with Teva in bio-similar drugs. Losing Lonza as a partner would strike a blow to the Israeli company's efforts to develop the bio-generics segment of its business.
The start of Tamar production did little to boost the shares of its partner companies, which Prico's Mazuz attributed to the market tradition of buying on the rumor and selling on the fact. The TA Oil & Gas Index was down 0.2% at close. Of the leading oil and gas companies, Delek Drilling fell 0.6%, Isramco by 0.8% and Avner ended unchanged.
Mazor Robotics jumped 18.7% after it reported a sale of four of its Renaissance robotic guidance systems for spine surgery to a U.S. hospital chain, which took an option for 10 more by this time next year.
Pharmaceutical company Kamada rose 1.2%. It estimated that sales this year would grow just 1.2% this year, to $74 million, but is more bullish on its industrial sales, which it expects to grow 15%, to $54 million.
Reuters contributed to this report.