Market Report / Banks, Led by Hapoalim, Help Markets Get Back on Track

Local stock markets yesterday rebounded from two days of profit taking as bank stocks surged. The TA-25 climbed 0.9 percent to 1,094 points, while the broader TA-100 added 0.6 percent to close at 1,087 points. The banking nidex surged a robust 2.4 percent. Turnover was brisk at NIS 2 billion. Investors were buoyed by reports that Israel would likely be joining the prestigious OECD, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

Bank Hapoalim (TASE:POLI) helped push financial stocks up. Company shares jumped 3.1 percent after the Bank of Israel approved the sale of its controlling stake to the Arison group.

Bank Leumi (TASE:LUMI) shares leapt 2.2 percent on significant progress by the Cerberus fund in talks with the Bank of Israel to acquire the nation's largest bank. U.S. bank regulators said they would not object to Leumi putting ownership of its American subsidiary Bank Leumi USA with a trustee. This move clears a hurdle that will make aproval of the sale of Leumi here easier. Leumi has gained 10.6 percent in a week.

Ormat Industries (TASE: ORMT) rose 0.6 percent despite a disappointing financial report by its subsidiary Ormat Technologies. The geothermal and recovered energy power business went from turning a profit to posting a $5.8 million loss in the first quarter of 2007.

On the downside, real estate empire Africa Israel (TASE:AFIL) fell 4.9 percent after announcing a surprise management change. Since the successful IPO of its Russian properties subsidiary in London last week, Africa shares have plummeted 11 percent.

NICE Systems (TASE:NICE) beat forecasts on the Street yesterday, but its reported EPS of $0.31 couldn't save the company from a sell off that pushed its stock down 2.5 percent. The company also reported revenue grew 32 percent to $116 million.

Among other leading stocks, Israel Chemicals (TASE:CHIM) advanced 3.3 percent while Makhteshim Agan (TASE:MAIN) climbed 1.4 percent ahead of today's expected report of first quarter results.