Bonds Fall on TASE, Bibi Blamed

Tel Aviv stocks mimicked Wall Street despite US bailout package. Former Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu fended off media claims he is to blame

Gil Ronen ,

Stocks on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) ended the day Sunday with a steep decline after US stock markets fell on Friday, despite passage by the US House of Representatives of a $700 billion bailout package for failed American financial firms. Corporate bonds were sharply down as well Sunday. The Tel-Bond 20 lost 4.23 percent and the Tel Bond 40 was down 6.93 percent.

Africa-Israel stocks, which are controlled by financier Lev Levayev, slid down 11.52 percent. Israel Chemicals dropped 7.16 percent and Delek Automotive Systems Ltd. was down 4.07 percent.

The Tel Aviv 25 Index was down 6.3 percent to 794, the Tel Aviv 100 Index dropped 6.6 percent to 707, and the Tel Tech Index plunged 11.49 percent. The Real Estate 15 Index plummeted 11.04 percent. 99 of the 100 stocks in the Tel Aviv 100 Index were down Sunday afternoon. The only stock to climb was Bezeq (up 1.84 percent).

Technology stocks were hard hit: shares in NICE Systems Ltd. were down 9.65 percent, following a drop on Thursday of 10.25 percent. VeriPhone lost 12.19 percent.

Blaming Bibi
Likud leader and former Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu defended himself Friday on Channel 2 TV's weekend newscast from charges that he was to blame for losses incurred by Israelis in the current crisis. Anchorman Yair Lapid told viewers that Israelis lost NIS 40 billion in the past few days and that "the American capitalistic system is crumbling before our eyes."

He then turned to Netanyahu, who was seated beside him in the studio, for a relatively rare live interview. "My mother lost 5.5 percent of her pension funds," Lapid said. "Our pension funds are playing in the American stock market because you let them."

Netanyahu responded by telling Lapid that while he empathized with his mother's woes, Israeli pension funds had gone up by 40 percent since 2003, so the hit was not an unbearable one. He added that there is no alternative to the capitalist system, unless one wanted to adopt a "North Korean" economy.

Netanyahu was Finance Minister under Ariel Sharon from early 2003 to August of 2005.