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Tel Aviv Shares End Higher; Euro Takes a Dip

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Tel Aviv shares ended a strong weekly performance on Thursday with more gains on brisk turnover of NIS 1.22 billion. The euro dropped sharply against the shekel after the European Central Bank cut interest rates to a new record low.

The benchmark TA-25 index added 0.5% to finish at 1,311.32 points while the broader TA-100 index advanced 0.87% to 1,187.70 points. The day's rise brought the TA-25's gain for the week to 1.7%, boosting its year-to-date return to 10.5%. The TA-100 rose 2.1% for the week and is now up 13.1% for 2013.

The TA-Communications index was the week's top performer,adding 4.4%, thanks largely to a run-up in Bezeq shares, to bring its increase for the year so far to 13.1%. Bezeq shares ended down 0.2% Thursday in heavy trading of NIS 62 million after turning in weaker third-quarter results than analysts had predicted (see story on page A8).

Responding to a slump in inflation last month, the ECB cut its main refinancing rate 25 basis points to 0.25% and said it would prime banks with liquidity for longer to prevent the euro zone's recovery from stalling.

The euro fell sharply in response, a move that wasn't reflected in the Bank of Israel rates for the day, which showed the euro up 0.18% against the shekel at NIS 3.5370 and the dollar up 0.18% to NIS 4.7729. However, in late trading the euro was lost as much as 1.1% on the Israeli currency to NIS 4.7082 before staging a partial recovery.

On Wall Street, frenzied buying in Twitter shares dominated the market's attention on Thursday, as the social media stock opened well above expectations, while major indices fell. In late morning trading, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.4% at 15,684.3, the Standard & Poor's 500 lost 0.7% to 1,758.37 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.3% to 3,880.565.

European shares erased most of their earlier gains late on Thursday, tracking the sell-off on Wall Street. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was up 0.1 percent at 1,298.45 points after trading as high as 1,316.42 points following the ECB move.

LivePerson, a customer-service technology provider, jumped 17.2% after its third-quarter results came in ahead of market expectations. Excluding one-time items, the company said it posted a profit of 7 cents a share while revenue increased 14% to $45.2 million. Analysts polled by FactSet were anticipating earnings of 4 cents a share on revenue of $44.5 million.

Reversing a sharp one-day retreat Wednesday, online translation company Babylon extended its recovery from last week's news that Google was canceling its contract with the company and ended Thursday 6.1% higher. At NIS 9.04, however, Babylon is still well below its NIS 19.65 price prior to the Google announcement.

Other top gainers in the TA-100 included food maker Strauss, which advanced 4.4% and Ashtrom Real Estate, which advanced 3.,4%. TheMarker reported that Ashtrom's parent company, Ashtrom Holdings, plans an initial public offering for trading on the TASE (See story on page A8).

The TA-Insurance index led sectorial indices higher on Thursday, gaining 1.4% to 1,542.30, led by gains of 2.5% for Harel, 1.8% for Menorta and 1.6% for Clal.

EZchip led TA-100 shares down, dropping 5.2% by the end of the day. The company exceeded analysts' expectations for third-quarter earnings reported late on Wednesday, besting their forecasts by two cents a share with net income of 33 cents a shares. Other big losers included Clal Biotechnology, which lost 3.8% and OPKO Healthcare, which ended down 1.5%.

Ormat rose 3.7% with NIS 25.8 million in shares changing hands. On Tuesday, the company's U.S.-traded Ormat Technologies unit raised its 2013 guidance and said it expects revenue of $525 million-$535 million with electricity sector revenues reaching $330.0 million and product segment revenues of $195 million-$205 million. Net income attributable to shareholders in the third quarter was $13 million, turning around from a net loss of $600,00 a year ago.

With reporting from Reuters and the Associated Press.

Bezeq buildingCredit: Ofer Vaknin