The Ticker / Shekel Continues to Strengthen Against Major World Currencies

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Two hundred shekel currency banknotes pass through a counting machine in this arranged photograph at Israel's central bank in Jerusalem, Israel, on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013.Credit: Bloomberg

Shekel continues to strengthen against major world currencies
The shekel continued its climb in value against the world’s major currencies on Wednesday. The U.S. dollar slumped by 0.48% to 3.761 shekels after dropping 1.41% on Tuesday. The euro declined by 0.45% on Wednesday to a representative rate of 4.218 shekels after losing 2.81% the day before. The strength of the shekel against the greenback ran totally contrary to global trends, which have seen a stronger dollar against the backdrop of a volatile euro, the research department of FXCM Israel noted. In backing the trend, the shekel is being influenced by speculators and the decision of the Bank of Israel not to lower its base interest rate below the current 0.1%. (Dror Reich)

Knesset Finance Committee seeking to delay steps toward sale of Israel Military Industries
The Knesset Finance Committee is seeking to delay the opening of due diligence data rooms for potential investors in the state-owned Israel Military Industries until the panel gets a clearer indication from the new finance minister, Moshe Kahlon, that he intends to proceed with the company’s privatization. The data rooms had been due to open at the beginning of July. In a related development, the Knesset committee approved a 275 million shekel ($72.8 million) government loan to IMI, although Likud MK Miki Zohar and Zionist Union MK Michal Biran, who oppose the privatization of the company, asked for a revote. Zohar later relented. He is the coalition whip on the committee and would normally be required to ensure a majority in support of government positions. He continues to oppose the sale, claiming that the situation at IMI has begun to improve and the welfare of its 2,800 employees must be safeguarded. (Zvi Zrahiya)

Alcobra drug fails mid-stage trial, sending its shares tumbling in New York
Tel Aviv-based Alcobra said its drug failed in a mid-stage trial to treat a type of genetic disorder that could cause autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The company’s shares plunged 28.48% to $6 in premarket trading on Wednesday on the Nasdaq exchange. Alcobra said the drug, MDX, aimed to treat fragile X syndrome, did not meet its main goal of reducing symptom score on a rating scale for ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The company said the difference between the MDX-treated group and the placebo group was not statistically significant. Alcobra said it plans to discuss trial results with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before finalizing the design of the next study. The drug is currently in late-stage trial to treat ADHD in adults and in mid-stage trial to treat the same in pediatric patients. MDX received orphan drug status in 2013 as there were no approved treatments to treat this neurogenetic condition. (Reuters)

TASE down amid global concerns about Greece, but bank shares rise
Shares on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange declined on the whole against the backdrop of the continued absence of a resolution of the Greek debt crisis. The Tel Aviv-25 index declined 0.41% to 1,682.32 points and the Tel Aviv-100 index dropped 0.51% to 1,445.18. The Banks-5 index bucked the negative sentiment, gaining 0.84% on the day, led by shares of Bank Leumi, which rose by 1.9%. The Communications Index also rose, by 1.6%,  led by Bezeq, shares of which jumped 2.1%. Volume for the day was 1.7 billion shekels ($429 million). Without any advance notice from the company, Hadera Paper shares surged near the close, rising 11.8% for the day, after it was learned that the FIMI Opportunity Funds were buying a 59% stake in the company for 355 million shekels. (See further coverage on this page). A day after PhotoMedex announced that it had sold its operations for the treatment of two skin conditions, psoriasis and vitiligo, a transaction that relieved its debt burden but had it forgo chief growth engines, shares of the company dropped by 18.9 % on Wednesday. (Dror Reich)

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