Stocks Dip on Thin Trading

Tel Aviv stocks traded with a negative bias yesterday as oil prices soared in world markets and equities traded mixed - but with a decided negative bias. The session was characterized by intense selectivity: It cannot be said that any particular sector gained or lost ground decisively.

Oil prices rose to fresh two and a half year highs, with Brent crude topping $122 a barrel as unrest in oil exporting countries in the Middle East and Africa outweighed China's fourth interest rate hike since October.

European exchanges were mixed, with losses ranging from a hair below the flatline to 0.8% down in Madrid. Danish and Icelandic shares inched up. Asian markets were also mixed, with Japanese stocks losing 1.5% as shares of Tokyo Electric Power descended to an all-time low, but Hong Kong's Hang Seng, for instance, was up 1.5%, and Seoul's KOSPI gained 0.7%.

Here in the Holy Land, corporate bonds edged down, and the leading indexes were in the red. The benchmark TA-25 index lost 0.4% to close at 1,326 points, while the broader TA-100 index lost 0.5% to close at 1,209 points. The Banks-5 and Real Estate-15 indexes lost 0.7%. Total turnover was paper-thin at NIS 1.3 billion.

Among the day's gainers were the oil & gas pack, newly tracked by a brand-new Tel Aviv Stock Exchange index, the TA Oil & Gas. The index gained 0.7%, but a closer look shows that there, too, one could see performance was highly selective. Among the gainers were Cohen Development, Israel Opportunity, Isramco, Avner, Delek Drilling and Lapidot; Ratio inched up 0.3%. Among the losers were Naphtha shares, Givot Olam, and Globe Exploration. (They call themselves Glob. )