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September 1, 2014 / 6 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘shekel’

Shekel Up Against Dollar Post-Rosh Hashanah

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

The shekel strengthened against the dollar and euro in trading after the Rosh Hashana holiday.  Tel Aviv’s foreign currency exchange market was closed Monday and Tuesday for the Jewish New Year.

In trading on Wednesday morning, the shekel-dollar rate dropped by 0.38% to 3.895 shekels to the dollar.

The Euro also strengthened against the dollar to $1.308 to the euro following a four-month low by the dollar against the euro last week.

Netanyahu Releases 250 Million Shekel Advance to PA

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

After consulting with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu released on Tuesday a 250 million shekel advance to the Palestinian Authority, due to concerns that public Arab protests against the PA may lead to anarchy in Judea and Samaria.

The money will be used to shore PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s government, and will be funneled into the various departments by PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Reports indicate that the PA is still in arrears of payment to the Israel Electric Company by 700 million shekels.

The majority of aid to the Palestinian Authority comes from the United States and European Union. Only 22 percent of the PA’s funding came from Arab donors in 2010.

Europe’s Financial Crisis Weighs on Israel’s Economic Outlook

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

The austerity package passed by Spain’s parliament last Thursday has done little to calm economic jitters worldwide, with the effects being felt in Israel as the Bank of Israel (BoI) is set to decide today whether to lower its key interest rate for a second straight month.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative People’s Party pushed through the controversial plan to cut state spending by some $80 billion, despite stiff resistance from opposition parties. The package includes a rise in the Value-Added Tax (VAT) rate from 18 percent to 21 percent and the reduction of unemployment benefits. Spain is struggling with an unemployment rate of around 25%, and has sought to ease its banking crisis by obtaining a bailout from the Eurozone.

On the same day that the austerity package was passed, German parliament approved an aid package for the Spanish banking sector worth approximately $146 billion. Many commentators in Germany expressed concern over the utility of another bailout. German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented: “The reality is that Spain is getting aid with loosened conditions. Soon Italy will ask, too. And the other reality is that, instead of investors, once again (mainly German) taxpayers will have to pay for the faulty speculation of banks.”

In Israel, the opening of the trading week on Monday morning saw the shekel-dollar exchange rate crossing the NIS 4/$1 line. The current shekel-dollar rate is at a three-year high, while the shekel-euro rate is 0.68% lower, at NIS 4.8705/€1. Later on Monday, the BoI is expected to announce its key interest rate for August, with some analysts speculating that the rate will be lowered for a second straight month, from 2.25% to 2%. Last month, the BoI cut the rate from 2.5% to its current rate.

Moti Bassok and Ram Ozeri, writing in Haaretz, explained that while a cheaper shekel makes Israeli imports more enticing, lower interest rates diminish foreign demand for shekel-based investments – which in turn tends to lower the shekel’s value. Supporters of an interest rate cut cite recent slower economic growth and weak foreign trade figures. The recent performance of Spanish government bonds have heightened fears that Spain will require much more assistance than last week’s $146 billion bailout, and Spain’s fiscal difficulties are causing the Euro to tumble, reaching a new low of approximately $1.2083/€1.

Israel is watching the continuing European debt crisis warily, as the European Union is Israel’s top trading partner. But despite Europe’s economic woes and trepidation in Israel, the EU is set to intensify relations with Israel by approving up to 60 new cooperative initiatives, according to AFP.

The initiatives are expected to be endorsed on Tuesday at the the annual Israel-EU Association Council meetings in Brussels. Predictably, they are sparking indignation from certain corners, as they come only two months after the EU’s statement condemning Israel for actions that “threaten to make a two-state solution impossible” – ie. settlement building, “settler extremism,” and “provocations against Palestinian civilians.”

According to AFP, the initiatives will include heightened cooperation in the energy and transportation sectors, and more closely-coordinated relations with a variety of EU agencies.

A European diplomat, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, was critical of increasing bilateral relations, saying: “Once again we’re hearing critical words on the one hand but it’s business as usual on the other…EU statements on the peace process are no more than theatre.”

Paul Hirschson, deputy spokesman at Israel’s foreign ministry, pointed out that the increased cooperation “is related to the existing work plan rather than some sort of upgrade, because that way the EU would have to find a way of delinking it from the peace process.”

In 2008, Israel’s attempt to enhance ties with the EU was stifled when the bloc suspended discussions because of Israel’s offensive against the Hamas regime in Gaza. It thereafter declared that any progress in bilateral relations would be conditional on progress in the Middle East peace process.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman left for Brussels on Monday and will be attending a meeting of the Israel-EU Association Council.

New Israeli Haredi Consumer Is Savvy, Wielding Purchasing Power of $2.6 Billion

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Haredi consumers are not, by and large, part of Israel’s social protest movement, but their shopping savvy, it turns out, according to Globes, is evolving constantly.

“The Haredi consumer pays less for the same product” as his or her non-Haredi counterpart, says Ronen Gross, host of a daily show on finance titled “Mamonot” on the Radio Kol Chai station. This is because commercial vendors speak to Haredi consumers “at pocket level.”

Gross says that the Haredi consumer “examines with a microscope the price of each item, and has no problem skipping from one supermarket to another if they knows the same product is cheaper there. Every shekel is calculated.”

Gross argues that the fact that the Haredi consumer prefers to sign checks using the Hebrew date, in the end the Jewish holidays guide their decision on when to buy a new product and when it is discouraged by Jewish tradition to do so.

During periods in which tradition demands a particularly sober and restrained behavior, in memory of past troubles, Haredi consumers purchase mostly just basic goods.

“The Jewish calendar leads the Haredi pocket,” says Gross, commenting that “In general, the first priority is not money, but values and faith.”

But other elements in the Haredi sector insist that the consumption habits of the ultra-Orthodox society are starting to resemble those of secular society. Haredim take a vacation once a year, buy brand names and drink quality wine.

Yaakov Stern, CEO of Haredi ad agency “Meimad,” told Globes: “There is something new under the Shtreimel. The Haredi sector is dynamic, it isn’t not stagnant and it isn’t shut off in the past, as is commonly believed. Global trends do not skip it. The Haredi world is changing and its consumer behavior evolves constantly.”

Stern added that despite the stigmas attached to them, “the average Haredi is not just looking for cheap prices. They are aware of and consume brand name products, and will not compromise on quality.”

According to accounting firm BDO Ziv-Haft, the purchasing power of the ultra-Orthodox sector, which constitutes 11.3% of Israel’s population, is estimated at 10.5 billion shekel, or $2.6 billion per annum. With such buying power, it’s no wonder that commercial companies have been investing considerable resources and strategic efforts in the Haredi consumer in recent years.

Stern told Globes that Haredi consumers trust their newspapers, and so print ads yield good results. But some argue that the best Haredi promotion is still “AAA”—acronym for Isha Achat Amrah—This woman told me, meaning word of mouth.

But according to Stern, despite those quaint assertions, the Haredi advertising market rolls $184 million annually, reflecting an increase of 12.5% compared with 2010.

No one beats the Haredi consumer for brand loyalty, even if said brand is more expensive that newer alternatives. In 2010, the newspaper Ha’Mevaser published a survey showing that 38% of Haredi consumers said they prefer Coca Cola as their soft drink. Only 8% said they prefer a cheaper brand.

And 68% preferred the well established brand Osem for their snacks, compared with 18% that went with a cheaper brand.

Retailers agree the Haredi consumer is evolving. Avishai Fadlon, owner of apparel store “El Nino” in prestigious Herzliya, told Globes that “Haredim still buy white shirts, but the symbol on the shirt, the brand, has become important. If three years ago they would have bought three shirts for 100 shekels, today many are willing to pay 300 shekels for one name brand shirt.”

Doreen Trotzmn – Baruch, owner of the wig brand “Doreen wigs,” asserts that “in the past two years, awareness of quality wig which are more expensive has increased. Today, Women are willing to spend on a wig from 6,000 ($1,500) to 12,000 shekel ($3,000), and replace it every year or two, based on fashion, which was not the case five years ago.”

Haredi consumer savvy is reflected in the search for different ways to reduce the cost of goods, by joining clubs and organizing on a community basis.

“Every Haredi community Tzedaka Gabais, social activists, if you will, who obtain consumer goods, especially food, at good prices, by buying directly from the manufacturer,” Chaim Kliger, chief marketing officer for the newspaper Hamevaser and presenter of the “Friday Night” program on Radio Kol Chai, told Globes.

Kliger says you can always find classified ads that read: “Next week there will be a sale of meat,” and then “a truck will arrive at a particular location, where the driver will sell the reduced price products. Many come by and save as much as 30%,” Kliger says, adding, “this selling method is in high gear before the holidays.”

Another way to buy cheaply is offered by the “TaTim,” the Tomchay Torah – supporters of Torah organizations. According to Kliger, “these are organizations of yeshiva students who manage to obtain clothing and footwear for their fellow yeshiva students, especially young men who are about to get married, at cheap rates of as much as 40% below store prices. Before the holidays it becomes a whole industry.”

The “Chinese auctions,” so popular in Orthodox communities in the U.S., have found their way to Israel, too. These are sales fairs, organized by various charity organizations, which raffle off electric appliances, furniture and baby products.

According to Globes, Israeli Haredim remain frugal in one notable area: vacation. Only 10.9% of the Haredi population have opted to travel abroad for their vacations in 2010, compared with 47% who vacationed in Israel. At the same period, 43.6% of secular Israelis vacationed abroad, and 59.8% vacationed in Israel.

Button Down

Friday, April 20th, 2012

In February, Chessed Yad L’Yad, Kiryat Mattersdorf’s local chesed organization, celebrated forty years of active involvement in the community. Beged Yad L’Yad, the Hand-Me-Down Pass-Me-On clothing gemach, was a natural subsidiary, especially with dozens of Anglo-Saxon families receiving clothing packages from abroad.

I stepped in 22 years ago, and with help from Hashem, and even The Jewish Press, it was flying, rather, floating. I was writing a weekly column at the time, Israel’s Sunnier Side, and putting an occasional “gesmache” plug for clothing, and the packages began coming by boat – and once even an air load from Miami!

So we grew and like Johnny Appleseed, opened up branches throughout Jerusalem and beyond, most of which quickly became independent.

Our forty-year celebration awarded five women with lovely framed plaques for distinguished service, yours truly among them.

But so many people make this project possible that I decided to devote a column to the Button Ladies, who have sat and snipped buttons off garments before they are trashed for recycling. Two of them, of blessed memory, were wives of famous people. There was Rebbetzin Malka Isbee Gurwitz, second wife of the Gateshead Rosh Yeshiva, R’ Leib Gurwitz zt”l, and Rebbetzin Kahane, wife of MK Rabbi Kalman Kahane.

Rebbetzin Malka, in her eighties, came down from upstairs, accompanied by her walker and caregiver to help settle her in. Then she went to work, regaling us with memories from her Detroit days as a teenager, when she worked in a button factory to help the family finances. Remember, those were the days of the Depression, when being shomer Shabbos and supporting a family were almost not possible. Half a century later, after years of very active communal involvement in Detroit, she realized her dream of aliyah, and then, as a second-time widow, came full circle and buttonholed herself perfectly by us, making sure that nothing went to waste.

An unsung gemach heroine up to this article.

Then there was Rebbetzin Kahana, crowning a life as an active member of the chareidi community, in her nineties, clocking in to fold shirts and snip off buttons, very important adjuncts which our busy volunteers did not have time for.

Not famous was Chava,* an arthritic volunteer living on the sixth floor. I think she earned her olam haba by defying a broken elevator one time and showing up with her walker! It was in her era that the following button story took place:

Aviva* comes in one day looking for fancy buttons. “I have a bar mitzvah coming up, and while I don’t mind wearing my standard simchah dress, I’d like to give it a new touch.” Her well-to-do mother will be coming in from the States and Aviva, whose husband is still in learning and who has a large family, does not want to look nebby.

Foraging among the treasures of gold, silver and diamonds, she comes up with gorgeous buttons that would easily cost $10 apiece in a shop. As she comes to pay her shekel, she notices a beaded evening purse for sale and shells out another three shekel.

The mother was duly impressed and thrilled with her daughter’s gift of the purse, which happened to be the rave in her high society. And ever since then, we – and Aviva – have been on the lookout for similar ones for her mother’s friends…

But geshmach miracles don’t often repeat themselves. Like a kaleidoscope, they come in different shapes and colors. Like buttons…

We had a different Malka who, sadly, is also no longer with us. This unsung heroine came from Brazil and the only way we could communicate with her was in Yiddish. An orphan girl in her forties, she dreamed of a shidduch, but we volunteers, while encouraging her, did not have much hope that this would happen. She gave her soul to the gemach, untangling belts, folding clothing and cutting off buttons. She even took work home with her!

Malka lived with an aunt who occasionally set her up with shidduchim. She did have an illustrious lineage going for her, stemming from the Chassam Sofer and from famous Rebbishe families. We would root for her before each meeting, and commiserate with her when things fell through. We duly expressed our reverence when she came back from an occasional Shabbos spent by her famous cousin (I forgot which Rebbe), who had actually spent time talking and even bantering with her.

Malka was summoned back to Heaven very suddenly when she was crossing the street one motzaei Shabbos and got hit by a car. Several volunteers attended her funeral and wept. But surely, her pure, precious and wholesome soul had found a beautiful place there.

Our story is not finished.

I had marked the date on my calendar. It was a year later, in June, that I woke up and went out to see what had sprouted in my yard. Living on the ground floor with a large front yard, I had begun encouraging people to drop things off there so that I could do the occasional washing and mending to save a good garment, and sort clothing when I wasn’t on duty at the gemach itself across the street (a busman’s holiday).

1 Shekel Sells for a Million Dollars

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

We knew the Israeli economy was in good shape, but this is ridiculous. Well, not if the shekel in question was minted just under 2000 years ago.

 The ancient Jewish coin was sold for $1.1 million (a record) at the Heritage Auctions house in Manhattan. It’s a silver shekel from 66 AD, and was bought by Steve Rubinger, president of Antiqua Ancient Art & Numismatics in Woodland Hills, Calif., and he in turn purchased it on behalf of a private East Coast collector.

 The silver shekel features an image of a ritual chalice and three pomegranates, with “A shekel of Israel made in Year 1” printed on one side and “Jerusalem the holy” on the reverse. It is one of only two specimens known, Heritage Auctions said. It was sold Thursday night as part of an auction of coins from the Shoshana Collection, which spans more than 11 centuries.

 The Shoshana Collection, which holds more than 2,200 coins from a private collector, is expected to raise more than $10 million in auctions this year.

Israel: World’s Safest Place to Invest

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Israel is the most likely country in the developed world to provide riskless returns on investments, according to a report in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Despite  a month-long war with Hizbullah in 2006, Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in 2008, existential threats from a pre-nuclear Iran, international and regional pressures, and internal socio-political and land turmoil, the Tel Aviv TA-25 Index returned 7.6 percent in the past decade, the highest amount of any of the 24 developed-nation benchmark indexes.  The next best index was Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index, followed by Norway’s OBX.

The past 10 years saw investments by US investment tycoon Warren Buffett, Apple, International Business Machines Corp, Intel, and others.

The Israeli gauge returned 161 percent including dividends over the last decade, according to Bloomberg, coming behind Norway and Hong Kong.  But it was considered significantly more stable than either.

Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer, is credited with much of the Israeli economy’s growth and stability.  Fischer is serving his second term, and has been a proponent of buying large amounts of foreign currency in an effort to help exports, which account for 40 percent of Israel’s gross domestic product.

Israel’s economy expanded approximately 4.8 percent in 2011, according to the International Monetary Fund, compared with 1.7 percent growth for the U.S.

Finance Ministry projections show Israel’s gross domestic product is expected to grow 3.2 percent in 2012, almost three  times the 1.2 percent average for the Group of 10 countries.

This year, the TA-25 had its best early part of the year since 1997, with a 3.1 percent rally in January, according to Bloomberg.  Teva pharmaceuticals and Dead Sea harvester Israel Chemicals comprise over 20 percent of the TA-25, but earn less than 6 percent of their revenues in Israel.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/businessfinance/israel-worlds-safest-place-to-invest/2012/02/21/

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