NEW YORK, Jan. 8 (JTA) — International investments by Israeli firms increased by more than 60 percent during the first nine months of 1996, compared with the same period in 1995, according to the Israel Export Institute. Israeli firms made $860 million in foreign investments during that nine-month period in 1996. During that time in 1995, firms made $535 million in international investments. The purchase by Israeli firms of companies abroad — specifically in the pharmaceutical and software sectors — was primarily responsible for the increase. Industrial firms carried out about two-thirds of the investments. The largest sectors investing outside the Jewish state were chemicals, trade and service firms, and electronics. Meanwhile, Israeli companies raised about $2.1 billion of capital in foreign financial markets in 1996, according to the Israeli daily Ma’ariv. The firms raised $1.9 billion through share offerings in the United States, $930 million through bond offerings and $45 million through share offerings in London. In other economic news, the Israeli shekel Wednesday weakened slightly against the dollar, but rose against the basket of key foreign currencies after the rise of the dollar against the mark, dealers said. Dealers attributed the shekel’s recent strength, however, to an upsurge in foreign currency-linked borrowing by the Israeli business sector.