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The dollar is now crossing the NIS 4.5 limit in dollar option trading. Its rate now, NIS 4.51 is now two agorot, or 0.5% higher than it was Friday, at NIS 4.491.

As on recent Sundays, dollar options trade volume is high, totaling about 35,000 options. There is 8.5% to 9% deviation from average volume of trade, testimony to the high uncertainty in the foreign currency market.

Dealers in the options market say the rise to NIS 4.51 is partly due to the lack of Sunday trade. "You can't buy dollars when there is no trade, so the demand is reverted to options," says one of the dealers, who was not sure the dollar will open at this level tomorrow, and predicted it will open with more moderate gains.

The manager of the funds in Bank Hapoalim, Dror Nagel, estimates foreign currency funds have in the last two days raised NIS 200 million, and that since the beginning of the devaluation these funds took in NIS 2 to NIS 2.5 million.

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Economists are having difficulty predicting the future trend for the dollar. Some estimate that after the sharp rise, the shekel will revaluate, correcting up. However, the continuing financing in foreign currency funds means the dollar is not selling. One dealer attributes great importance to the activity of foreign investors, saying they will be "the trend-setters of the next few days."

Dealing rooms in banks say investors these days are in no hurry to sell, but even those who anticipate a correction are in no rush to buy dollars. The First International Bank of Israel is reporting a growing tendency by the public to buy dollars, and are quoting an NIS 4.51 rate.

Ilanot Batucha¿s Gift investment bank estimates the dollar will trade at NIS 4.44 to NIS 4.5 levels. Analysts at the bank say that funds, mutual funds, insurance companies and local banks have created great demands for the American currency. Common folk who find the shekel instruments less attractive are heading to foreign currency linked channels, and to the stock market.

Union Bank of Israel estimates continued, long-term devaluation of the shekel versus the dollar, as hardly anyone is selling dollars. The bank expects that unlike in the past, the only potential short-term sellers of dollars are speculators that made some recent capital gains and exporters.

The bank analysts estimate the dollar will range from NIS 4.43 to NIS 4.52 in the coming week.