Tel Aviv Stocks End March With Firm Gains

The TA-25 index advanced 1.5% Thursday, bringing the blue-chips' first-quarter gain to 7.7%

March ended with a bang for Tel Aviv stocks, barring a slight reversal on Wednesday. Tel Aviv blue chips gained 1.5% on Thursday, with the TA-25 index ending at 997.2 points. In the last month the TA-25 index gained 2.6% and from the start of the year, the index of the 25 weightiest companies on the exchange have gained 7.7%.

The TA-25 index is just 0.3% below the 1,000-point mark that it briefly crossed on February 19.

The best-performing share on the TA-25 index in the first quarter was Africa Israel (TASE: AFIL), which rose 37%. Partner Communications (LSE, TASE, Nasdaq:  PTNR) is a close second at 30% and Teva (TASE, Nasdaq: TEVA)  is third, having risen 17% after a rough year for investors in 2006.

Teva stock

In last place among the TA-25 stocks is Israel Discount Bank (TASE: DSCT), shares of which have lost 6.7% in the first quarter of 2007. But most of the hit was yesterday, after the bank published disappointing results for the year 2006, sending its stock down almost 9%.

Bank Leumi (TASE:  LUMI) is the second-last with negative returns of 5.2% and Gazit Globe (TASE: GLOB) is a surprising third, with a loss of 3.3% in the first quarter.

In March alone, Africa Israel gained 17%, followed by Clal Insurance (TASE: CLIS), which gained 10.4%. Israel Chemicals (TASE: CHIM) rose by 10%. Bank Discount lost 8.8% and Discount Investment Corporation (TASE:  DISI) fell 6.5%. VeriFone sank by 4.7%.

On Thursday morning Tel Aviv stocks advanced despite the negative trend in world markets, with Wall Street losing ground for two days in a row. The momentum picked up shortly before closing.

Second- and third-tier stocks gained about 1% today. In the first quarter, the TA-75 index rose 7.4% and the MidCap-30 index gained 11%.

Delek Group (TASE: DLEKG)  was at the center of interest after TheMarker reported that the company was having difficulties in floating subsidiary Delek Global Real Estate on London's AIM market. Instead of raising 150 million pounds, it's having to settle for 100-120 million pounds. Delek Group shares lost 0.4% and Delek Real Estate sank 3.7% on turnover of NIS 28 million.

Only two and a half more days remain for the Tel Aviv companies to file their financial statements for the year 2006, and it's going to be a flood. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange reports that only 535 of the 820 listed companies have filed so far.

Yesterday the two big banks reported their results and investors didn't like them much, despite impressive profits - that were achieved in large part thanks to one-time capital gains. Shares in Bank Discount lost 3.9% on Thursday, building on their 8.6% slide the day before. Leumi added 0.1% after losing 0.8% on Wednesday, and Hapoalim climbed 2.4%. Mizrahi-Tefahot gained 1.1%.

Israel Chemicals gained 4.4% on top of its Wednesday jump of 2%.

Gazit Globe gained 1.2% today and Africa Israel added 4.5%.