ISRAEL STOCKSIsrael indexes close at an all-time highPrintE-mailDisable live quotesRSSDigg itDel.icio.usBy Robert Daniel, MarketWatchLast Update: 12:45 PM ET Feb 13, 2007TEL AVIV (MarketWatch) -- The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange benchmark indexes closed at an all-time high, led by Teva Pharmaceutical, which reported higher fourth-quarter earnings, banks, Israel Chemicals and Bezeq.Late in the day, Standard & Poor's affirmed its A-minus long-term foreign-currency rating on Israel and raised its outlook on the country to positive from stable. The benchmark TA-25 index rose 1.59% to 981.64, the TA-100 added 1.62% to 992.73, and the Tel-Tech 15 index advanced 1.77% to 400.26. "There's a lot of liquidity around; that's the main thing," said Avi Weinreb, trader at Clal Finance Batucha. "People are working, and they're putting their savings into the market. Interest rates are low and maybe going a notch lower, and [investors] are inclined to put more in." S&P said the change reflects the "improved resilience of Israel's public finances and economy to geopolitical shocks, after a three-year period of fiscal consolidation and strong economic growth." S&P's move is "another thing to help support the shekel," which in turn would create more room for the Bank of Israel to lower rates, Weinreb said.TEVA leaped 5.7% to 155.7 shekels ($36.74)). Fourth-quarter net income rose 51% as sales increased 63%. The Jerusalem drugmaker cited sales of new products as well as the addition of sales from the acquisition of Ivax. Discount Bank jumped 5.6% to 9.55. UBS analyst Joseph Wolf initiated coverage of the bank with a buy rating and 12-shekel price target. Among the other banks, Hapoalim rose 1.7% to 20.21, Leumi added 3.2% to 17.61 and Mizrachi Tefahot also added 3.2%, to 31.32. First International Issue 5 rose 1% to 55.29. The Tel Aviv Banking Index, which is made up of the five banks, finished 2.84% higher at 1,331.53. Union Bank rose 1.9% to 23.16. It's a member of the Tel Aviv Finance 15 index, which closed 2.07% higher at 1,222.01. Migdal Insurance added 1% to 6.26 shekels. The company said it's looking into the prospect of buying part of a credit-card company, including that of Bank Leumi. Two more rising in the blue chips: Fertilizer producer Israel Chemicals advanced 2.4% to 24.73, and local-telephone-service provider Bezeq tacked on 1.2% to 7.25 shekels. Three notable TA-25 losers were agrichemicals provider Makhteshim-Agan, down 1.7% at 25.41, defense contractor Elbit Systems, (ESLT : elbit sys ltd ord down 1.2% at 148 shekels, and real-estate company Africa-Israel Investments, (AFIVY ) down 1.1% at 350. Nice Systems, (NICE ) listed on the TA-25 and the Tel-Tech 15, rose 2.9% to 139.3. The producer of digital recording and archiving systems was reiterated outperform with a $34 price target by analyst Eran Jacoby at Leader Capital Markets. Gilat Satellite Networks (GILT ) rose 0.8% to 40.72 shekels. The company reported fourth-quarter net income more than tripled to $4.5 million, or 12 cents a share, as revenue increased 17% to $65.4 million. Robert Daniel is MarketWatch's Middle East bureau chief, based in Tel Aviv.
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