Twice as in a second interest rate cut and will it be good news for the iShares MSCI Israel Capped Investable Market Index Fund (EIS) .
Believe it or not, less than two weeks after the Bank of Israel surprisingly lowered interest rates by 25 basis points to 1.5 % , there is chatter the central bank could offer up a sequel at its next meeting May 27.
Joining central banks from Ankara to Hanoi to Warsaw, the Bank of Israel not only lowered rates on May 13, but revealed a plan to purchase $2.1 billion in foreign currency in an effort to weaken the country’s currency, the shekel. [ETF Of The Week: Israel]
At 1.5%, Israel’s benchmark interest rate resides at a three-year low, but more cuts could be in store because of the sturdy shekel. Soaring production of natural gas at Israel’s Tamar offshore field has bolstered the Israeli currency against the dollar while improving Israel’s current account, Haaretz reported.
Interestingly, the iShares MSCI Israel Capped Investable Market Index Fund features a scant 4.74% weight to the energy sector, according to i Shares data. Still, further rate cuts are seen as necessary until Israel can form a sovereign wealth fund for its natural gas tidings.
Citing a Bloomberg interview with HSBC analyst Jonathan Katz, Moshe Golan for Globes reported Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer surprise investors again as soon as next week with another cut of 25 basis points to 1.25% at next Monday’s meeting.
At 1.5%, Israel’s rates are not exceptionally high, but with benign inflation, Fischer has some room with which to work to again show markets he is serious about weakening the shekel. Markets liked the May 13 announcement initially, but enthusiasm quickly waned. A day before the announcement, the exchange was 3.55 shekels per dollar. Wednesday, the exchange rate was nearly 3.66.
As for EIS, the lone Israel ETF has gained a mere 70 cents through Tuesday since the rate cut announcement, but it can take a while for rate cuts to affect equities. Additionally, the ETF is heavily allocated to just one stock, Teva Pharmaceuticals (TEVA). The generic drug giant accounts for almost 23 percent of the ETF’s total weight.
The significant allocation to the health care sector gives EIS a beta of just over one against the S&P 500, but that sector weight can cut both ways because health care names do not always immediately react to interest rate decisions, meaning EIS may not surge right after another rate cut. [Health Care ETFs In Massive Rally On Defensive Trade]
Then again, it is worth noting Fischer departs in June and that he has cut rates by 175 basis points since 2011. Why not go out with a bang and make it an even 200? That is to say Fischer does hold a key to the Israel ETF’s medium-term outlook.
ETF Trends editorial team contributed to this story.
The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.
- Bank of Israel