Shekel Sinks to Lowest Since 2016, Default Insurances Soars

(Hadar Youavian/FLASH90)

LONDON (Reuters) – The shekel hit its weakest level since early 2016 and the cost of insuring the country’s sovereign debt against default soared on Tuesday after a bloody weekend assault by Hamas militants put Israel on a war footing.

The shekel softened 0.4% in early trade to hit 3.9544 to the dollar, extending losses again after Monday’s more than 2.5% tumble, which was the biggest one-day move since March 2020. The currency has weakened 11% so far in 2023.

Five-year credit default swaps, which pay the owner in the event of an bond issuer defaulting, have risen to 93 basis, well above Friday’s close at 60 bps, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The weekend attack and retaliatory strikes by Israel have claimed more than 1,500 lives, raising fears the region could face a prolonged wave of conflict and violence.

Stocks, bonds and currencies of Israel and neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt have come under severe pressure in recent days. The Bank of Israel announced on Monday it would sell up to $30 billion of foreign currency in the open market to stabilize the currency.

Israel’s longer-dated international bonds enjoyed some gains on Tuesday, with the century bond maturing in 2120 up nearly 1 cent, Tradeweb data showed. However, that offset only a fraction of the more than 4 cent fall the bond had seen on Monday, while the country’s shorter-dated bonds still saw pressure and extended declines.

JPMorgan said in a note to clients it had reduced its overweight position on select Israel corporate bonds to a neutral weight, and taken the same action on debt issued elsewhere in Gulf Corporation Countries.

“It would not be prudent for us to advise investors to add bonds in the current backdrop,” JPMorgan’s Zafar Nazim said in a note to clients published late on Monday.

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