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Tel Aviv blue chips close Thursday session with 0.2% gains

Traders optimistic market will rally as it dissociates itself from Wall Street

The mood in Tel Aviv swung between gains and losses on Thursday, leading indicators closing mixed. The Maof-25 index of blue chips added 0.18% to 509.11 points while the TA-100 index lost 0.26% to 489.67 points. The Tel-Tech technology index fell 1%. Total turnover was moderate at NIS 233 million. Local traders said that the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange is in the process of dissociating itself from Wall Street. One trader opined that in 2001 and 2002 the TASE will flourish as it turns away from the Wall Street axis. Other traders are placing their hopes in recent macroeconomics data that indicate that the local market is rallying. Traders anticipate that a long period of gains lies ahead.

Central Securities Corporation's CEO Ornan Solomon today said that the lifting of the Wall Street cloud, the central bank's policy of decreasing interest rates, and the public's changing preferences will result in the market rallying in the medium term. Solomon expects that after the long reign of the shekel, the stock component will be increased in the public's portfolios. Nessuah Zannex Investment house today released its inflation index that points to a significant drop in Israel's inflation environment. The firm's chief economist, Jonathan Katz said that despite the fragility of foreign markets, he expects that the Bank of Israel will cut key interest rates by 0.2% in light of the low inflation data.

But today Wall Street still affected dual-listed shares. Teva Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq:TEVA) lost 1.5% on NIS 38 million, the session's highest turnover so far. Teva shares lost 4% on Wall Street last night, a moderate drop considering how badly most Israeli stocks were bruised by the Nasdaq's 7% plunge. Retalix (Nasdaq:RTLX) shed 1.2% after opening on a negative arbitrage gap of 5.7%, Nice Systems (Nasdaq:NICE) closed down 1.5% after opening on a negative arbitrage gap of 3%, and Formula Systems (Nasdaq:FORTY) lost 1.1%, having opened on a negative arbitrage gap of 3%.

Bank shares were today's favorites. Bank Hapoalim added 1.3%, Bank Leumi rose 0.2%, and Bank Mizrahi gained 0.8%.

Bank Hapoalim has posted gains of late. The stock has won a Strong Buy rating from Gmul Sahar investment house, which set a price target of NIS 15. Analyst Doron Tsur opines that the stock has failed to live up to expectations due to aggressive sales as of the beginning of the Mideast crisis. The analyst says that the stock is traded just 5% above Bank Leumi stock despite the fact that Bank Poalim's profitability is 25% higher than that of Bank Leumi. The analyst rates Bank Leumi and Bank Mizrahi with Buy ratings, setting a price target of NIS 11.6 to Bank Leumi and NIS 5.8 to Bank Mizrahi.

Nisko Industries is dropped 2.7% after

Shrem Fudim Kelner

yesterday announced it is withdrawing from negotiations to place $6 million in the financial round of the Nisko High-Tech Group that invests in Internet communications infrastructure companies. Nisko High-Tech tried to raise $15 million at a company value of $60 million. SFK's was to place 40% of the total amount and its decision casts a shadow of doubt over the chances of the round. Nisko shares have lost 6% in the last two days of trade.

PCB closed off 2.1% on lively action in light of the recent losses posted by the subsidiary


(Nasdaq:CAMT), which yesterday lost 7% in New York.

Ma'ariv Holdings dipped 6.5% on lively action. Today the Ma'ariv board announced that Chairman Ofer Nimrodi has been interrogated on witness harassment. The controlling shareholder, Israel Land Development Corporation, closed down 2.9%.