Bank Discount Stock Tumbled 8.6% on Disappointing Profits in 2006

Tel Aviv stocks reverse to red after rising 5% in seven days; ICL beat the trend with a 0.8% gain

Tel Aviv stocks reversed to the red after seven business days of advancing, during which the TA-25 index gained 5%. But the direction reversed on Wednesday as speculators prepared for the expiry of options on the TA-25 index this Thursday. The losses were also fueled by negative macroeconomic news from the United States, which lowered the Wall Street indices half a percent at the opening of trade.

The TA-25 index retreated by 0.7% to 982 points, the TA-100 index dropped 0.9% to 981 points and the Tel-Tech 15 index lost 1.5%: 14 of its 15 stocks are dual-listed, and Tadiran Communications is the subsidiary of a dual-listed company.

Total turnover was heavy ahead of the options expiry, at NIS 1.8 billion.

The banks dragged down the indices. The Banks index lost 2.3%, dragged down by shares of Bank Discount, which plunged 8.6% after the bank delivered a disappointing report for the year 2006.

Bank Discount reported a leap in net profit, but when nonrecurring items were discounted, then profit was down 4% against the year before, which sent the bank's shares into freefall. Turnover in Bank Discount stock was uncharacteristically heavy at NIS 117 million.

Shares of Bank Hapoalim lost 0.9% on the highest turnover of the day, NIS 147 million, and Mizrahi-Tefahot sank 2.8%.

Bank Leumi lost 0.9% after reporting netting NIS 3.5 billion in 2006, but here too, once one-time items are set aside, earnings were down for the year, and return on equity failed to cross 10%.

Today Israel Chemicals (ICL) and its parent company The Israel Corporation published their financial results for the year. ICL started with a 1% drop but ended 0.8% up on the day's third-highest turnover, NIS 125 million. The company reported 10% growth in fourth-quarter profit  to $90 million, less than analysts had expected.

The Israel Corporation reported a 46% slide in net profit to NIS 855 million, due in part to lower profits at Zim, its wholly-owned shipping company. It also reported entering into a joint venture agreement to make cars in an unspecified Asian country. Its shares edged down by 0.1%.

Delek Group dropped 1.1% despite reporting that profit grew 143% to NIS 1.5 billion for the year.

Among real estate stocks, Africa Israel climbed 1.5%. The company has gained 20% in a week.

Elbit Systems received a roughly $10 million contract to supply defense systems to Lithuania, but its shares lost 1.2%, obedient to the trend.

Among other dual-listed stocks, Teva dropped 1.1% on modest turnover of NIS 60 million and Nice Systems lost 0.7%.