Israeli shares declined in New York, pushing the benchmark index to its biggest weekly slump since July, as Palestinian missiles landed around Jerusalem and Tel Aviv while the army extended its bombing of the Gaza Strip.
The Bloomberg Israel-US Equity Index (ISRA25BN) of the largest New- York traded Israeli companies retreated 0.6 percent to 81.44 by 2:26 p.m. in New York, set for a 2.8 percent slump this week, the biggest since the five days ended July 13. Allot Communications Ltd. (ALLT), the developer of technology that helps wireless carriers manage traffic, and drugmaker Protalix BioTherapeutics Inc. (PLX) led declines.
At least one rocket landed south of Jerusalem, hitting an “open area” with no casualties or damage, the first hit on the city since the 1967 Middle East war, according to the Foreign Ministry. A blast was heard in Tel Aviv for a second day. About 500 rockets have been fired into Israel over the past two days and Israeli air strikes have hit almost 500 targets in Gaza, the army said. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to call up 75,000 reservists, according to Channel Two television.
“Investors are worried about an escalation,” Brian Friedman, who helps manage $625 million at GHP Investment Advisors, said by phone from Denver. “Israel has been through this before but the unpredictable nature of the situation makes it easy to paint a picture of more dire consequences.”
The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange is closed today and tomorrow for the weekend.
Israel’s five-year credit-default swaps rose 10 basis points to 167 basis points, the highest level since Aug. 30, New York prices compiled by Bloomberg show. Credit-default swaps pay the buyer face value in exchange for the underlying securities or the cash equivalent should a borrower fail to adhere to its debt agreements.
The shekel rose 0.2 percent to 3.9668 per dollar. It was the second-worst performer after the South African rand among 10 emerging-market currencies in Europe, Middle East and Africa tracked by Bloomberg this week, weakening 1.3 percent.
Allot, based in Hod Hasharon, Israel, dropped 5.8 percent to $19.71, an eight-month low, extending its decline for the week to 11 percent. The retreat widened the stock’s discount to its Israeli shares to the most in a week. Shares traded in Tel Aviv lost 11 percent for the week to 83.44 shekels, or the equivalent of $21.04.
Protalix dropped 3.6 percent to $5.11 in New York, paring its gain this week to 4.3 percent. The Israeli stock increased 7.6 percent in the last five days to $20.66, or $5.21.
Only six stocks on Bloomberg Israel-US Equity Index gained this week.
“We need to see how this might affect the economy if there is a prolonged conflict,” Jacob de Tusch-Lec, a money manager at Artemis Investment Management LLP who oversees about $100 million including Israeli equities, said in a phone interview from London. “If this turns into a long-term situation, we could see less spending and an impact on labor and banks, and Israel’s risk premium could creep up.”
Israel is ranked investment-grade by the three major ratings companies, with an A1 rating from Moody’s Investors Service, A+ from Standard & Poor’s and A from Fitch Ratings.
The nation’s economic growth is expected to slow to 3.3 percent this year from 4.6 percent in 2011, according to central bank estimates. The outlook is still faster than the 1.3 percent forecast for the Group of 10 industrialized countries, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
In December 2008, Israeli tanks and soldiers entered Gaza and more than 1,100 Palestinians and 12 Israelis were killed in the subsequent fighting. The benchmark TA-25 Index (TA-25) gained 6.9 percent in the 22-day operation.
“The initial sell-off was an emotional reaction to rockets being fired,” Steven Schoenfeld, founder of Bluestar Global Investors LLC, a financial research company focused on Israel and the Middle East, said yesterday by phone from San Francisco. “Yet overall, markets have reacted with the knowledge that Israel’s companies and its economy have gone through this before and that it’s very unlikely to have anything but a very short-
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