Trade in Tel Aviv is characterized this early afternoon by tiny drops and low turnover. Europe's markets are closed today due to Christmas, but Wall Street will be opening later. Indications coming from the United States ahead of Wall Street trade may cause a change of trend on the TASE.

Investors predict that shares traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange will gain over the medium term. But market sources believe that speculators on the Maof-25 index have bought large quantities of underlying assets, making in tough for the market to gain ground in the remaining three days of trade until the Maof-25 options expire on Thursday.

The Maof-25 index is down 0.3% in early afternoon trade to 516.5 points. The TA-100 index is unchanged at 497 points. The Tel-Tech index is also unchanged. Turnover is a mediocre NIS 65 million.

Bank Hapoalim is inching down 0.3% on lively trade for this dull morning. Bank Leumi is unchanged at this time%.

One sector in the green this mixed morning is chemicals. Investors believe the sector is being boosted by the strengthening euro. Israel Chemicals is up 0.6%, and Makhteshim Agan is gaining 1.1%. ICL is trading on a favorable report released yesterday by Merrill Lynch, which describes the stock as an attractive investment.

Mashov Computers is bouncing 4% back after yesterday's 10% plunge, Lipman is inching down 0.2% on lively turnover.

The oil sector is also prominent today. Isramco is gaining 1.3% on lively turnover while Avner's participating unit leaps 6.5% on high turnover.