Market Report /Biocell Crashes on Upbeat

Three-tenths of a percent is all the TA-25 index has to travel to cross the 1,200-point barrier.

Three-tenths of a percent is all the TA-25 index has to travel to cross the 1,200-point barrier. That barrier means nothing, by the way: Its importance is purely psychological, but there it is and Israeli stocks sailed serenely toward it yesterday, propelled by the upbeat trend on Wall Street after several tough days.

Last week the TA-25 challenged the 1,200-point barrier but almost immediately fell back. The sour sentiment on Wall Street as the week ended didn't help, nor did the mounting pile of Israeli companies admitting that their third-quarter results will fall short of expectations because consumer prices rose sharply during the period. That matters to these companies because they have heavy loans linked to the consumer price index. So they faced huge interest payments during the quarter, which did horrible things to their profits.

The TA-25 index added 1.2 percent yesterday to 1,196.6 points, the TA-100 index gained 1.3 percent and the TelTech-15 index advanced 1.1 percent. Bonds forged ahead, with linked Galils rising a huge half-percent and fixed-income Shahars inching up 0.1 percent.

Total turnover was heavy at NIS 2.2 billion, which is one sign that foreign investors have been lively. Yet more traces of foreign investors were evident in the heavy volumes of trade in Israel Chemicals, Bank Leumi, Teva and Makhteshim Agan.

Looking at the currency arena, the dollar weakened badly against other major currencies around the world yesterday.

Shares in Maabarot surged 11.6 percent on heavy turnover of NIS 23 million after reports that Osem is buying 51 percent of the kibbutz company's subsidiary Materna, which makes baby formula, under a company valuation of NIS 249 million. Osem stock gained 4.2 percent on turnover of NIS 1.5 million, which isn't much for a stock that had been on the TA-25 index until a year ago.

Another midcap that stood out was Biocell, which crashed, losing 20 percent on vast turnover of NIS 48 million. Trade in its stock was even livelier than in Africa Israel, with turnover more than 20 times its average. Market sources say the flotation of Biocell company Protalix in the United States will close at a lower share price than originally envisioned: less than $600 million.

Shares of The Israel Corporation gained 3 percent, bringing their gain from the year's start to more than 80 percent. The company is now the third weightiest on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. On Monday the company's stock advanced 3.7 percent after TheMarker reported that Israel Corp subsidiary Zim (98.4 percent) has started the process of picking underwriters for a New York initial public offering. Israel Chemicals (ICL) is also an Israel Corp. subsidiary; its shares rose 1.3 percent yesterday.

Bank shares powered ahead, with Hapoalim adding 1.6 percent and Leumi gaining 2.4 percent. Last week Leumi marked a moment of meaningless gratification: Its market capitalization passed that of Hapoalim for the first time in more than 20 years.

Moving onto real estate, the index advanced 2 percent, propelled by Africa Israel which gained 1.7 percent. Another heavyweight, Gazit Globe, actually retreated by 0.6 percent.