Market Report / Stocks End March Upbeat

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

The TA-25 index is just 0.3 percent 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 percent. Partner Communications (LSE, TASE, Nasdaq: PTNR) is a close second at 30 percent and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (TASE, Nasdaq: TEVA) is third, having risen 17 percent after a rough year for investors in 2006.

In last place among the TA-25 stocks is Israel Discount Bank (TASE: DSCT), whose shares lost 6.7 percent 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 percent.

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.

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 sterling, it's having to settle for 100-120 million pounds. Delek Group shares lost 0.4 percent and Delek Real Estate sank 3.7 percent on turnover of NIS 28 million.

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

Israel Chemicals (TASE:CHIM) gained 4.4 percent on top of its Wednesday jump of 2 percent. Gazit Globe (TASE:GLOB) gained 1.2 percent yesterday and Africa Israel added 4.5 percent.