Byline: Avi Weinreb
Merrill Lynch has upgraded its intermediate-term rating on Bank Hapoalim from "Neutral" to "Strong Buy", and issued a price target of NIS 12, about 41% above current levels.
Analyst Paul Tucker said, "This is not an investment for the faint-hearted, and we do see risks. The geopolitical situation remains volatile...There is a good chance the next move in interest rates will be up, and any weakening of the shekel tends to be negative for bank shares. We do not believe we have seen the turning point in terms of the banking sector outlook, but we may now be hitting the bottom; an earnings recovery will be skewed towards the second half of 2002."