Bloomberg News

‘Third-World’ Strike Swells New York Discount: Israel Overnight

February 12, 2012

Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Israeli stocks traded in New York trailed their Tel Aviv counterparts by the most since November after a general strike closed the local bourse and plans to help Greece avoid default threatened to unravel.

The benchmark TA-25 Index dropped 0.2 percent to 1,114.54 at 11:27 a.m. in Tel Aviv as markets traded for the first time since Feb. 7 after the strike ended. Stock trading started at 10:45 a.m., a one-hour delay, and will close at 5 p.m., a half hour later than usual. The Bloomberg Israel-US 25 Index of the largest Israeli companies traded in New York fell 3 percent last week after the TA-25 retreated 0.4 percent during three days of trading. The 2.6 percentage point lag was the biggest since the five days ending Nov. 18. Perrigo Co. dropped 0.4 percent last week after the Tel Aviv shares climbed 3.7 percent during the same period, extending the discount to $4.97, the biggest among dually-traded companies.

“The strike isn’t a good thing for Israel, it kind of gives the image of a third-world country,” Gadi Beer, the manager of the Amidex35 Israel Mutual Fund, said by telephone from Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. “When the Israeli market reopens the local stocks will probably close the gaps after missing two days of trading.”

Global stocks fell last week, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index snapping a five-week rally, as Greece’s governing coalition party pushed back against German demands for deeper budget cuts to prevent financial collapse. Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos secured approval from his Cabinet to submit laws for new budget measures designed to secure a second rescue package for the country, a government official said Feb. 10.

Perrigo, EZchip

The Bloomberg Israel-US 25 Index has gained 8.7 percent this year, outperforming the TA-25 Index’s 2.7 percent climb and the S&P 500 Index’s 6.8 percent increase. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., the world’s biggest maker of generic drugs, led advances after soothing concerns it would struggle to find new revenue by replacing its chief executive officer.

Perrigo, the largest U.S. maker of generic over-the-counter drugs which bought B’nei Brak, Israel-based pharmaceutical company Agis Industries Ltd. in 2005, fell to $93.31 after the Tel Aviv shares climbed to 365.70 shekels, or the equivalent of $98.28, on Feb. 7. The shares lost 4.7 percent to 348.50 shekels, or $93.66, today.

EZchip Semiconductor Ltd. surged 7.5 percent to $37.06 in New York last week, after the Tel Aviv stock added 0.5 percent to 123.80 shekels, or the equivalent of $33.24. The $3.82 premium was the second-largest among the dually-traded shares. The Tel Aviv shares jumped 11 percent to 137.20 shekels, or $36.87, today.

Startup Companies

The processor maker that counts Juniper Networks Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. as customers reported better-than-estimated adjusted fourth-quarter earnings.

Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., the world’s second- largest software security firm, fell the most in a month on Feb. 10, dropping 2.2 percent to $57.29.

Shares were rated “neutral” at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which resumed coverage of the company.

Israel, whose population of 7.8 million is similar in size to Switzerland’s, has about 60 companies traded on the Nasdaq Stock Market, the most of any country outside the U.S. after China. The nation is also home to more startup companies per capita than the U.S.

The Israeli union group known as the Histadrut called the strike, which involves 500,000 workers, to demand better conditions and pay for contract employees. The labor federation estimates that they receive on average about 30 percent less pay than comparable workers who are hired directly. The ministry estimates that there are about 250,000 contract workers.

As part of the agreement to end the strike today, the union gave a limited obligation not to strike for the next three years, the Finance Ministry said today.

Central Bank

“The strike is causing serious damage to Israel’s economy and it is unfortunate to be doing so during this particularly difficult period,” the Jerusalem-based central bank, headed by Governor Stanley Fischer, said in a Feb. 10 e-mailed statement.

The Bank of Israel’s monetary policy committee lowered the benchmark rate by 25 basis points, or 0.25 percentage point, at the end of January to 2.5 percent, the third cut in five months.

The reduction was needed because the European debt crisis remains a threat to domestic growth, the bank said. Exports make up about 40 percent of Israel’s economy and Europe is one of the country’s largest markets.

--With assistance from Calev Ben-David, Alisa Odenheimer and Susan Lerner in Jerusalem. Editors: Marie-France Han, Brendan Walsh

To contact the reporter on this story: Tal Barak Harif in New York at tbarak@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Emma O’Brien at eobrien6@bloomberg.net


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