BUENOS AIRES, Dec 26 (Reuters) - Argentine stock prices advanced on Wednesday as the local market caught up with gains in foreign markets on Monday when Argentine trading was shut for a pre-Christmas holiday.
The MerVal index .MERV of the 25 leading stocks rose 1.61 percent to 2,179.90 points in heavy volume of $87 million. Of active issues 52 advanced, 17 declined and 11 were unchanged.
Among the top gainers was financial group Grupo Financiero Galicia GFG.BA, which jumped 5.38 percent to 2.35 pesos per share.
"Basically the MerVal responded with a rise because our stocks are getting in line with quotes for American Depositary Receipts in the United States, which rose nicely on Monday," said Leopoldo Olivar, trader at Bacque brokerage in Buenos Aires.
Some Argentine companies have shares that trade in New York as American Depositary Receipts, or ADRs.
Government debt on the local market closed near flat, on average, in minimal volume. The Boden 2012 gained 0.8 percent while the peso-denominated Discount bond lost 0.4 percent.
On the foreign exchange market, the peso currency lost ground against the dollar as some big companies made large purchases of dollars to settle end-of-the-year obligations.
The peso weakened 0.39 percent to close at 3.1650/3.1675 per dollar in informal trade between foreign exchange houses as measured by Reuters ARSB=.
In formal interbank trade, where the central bank intervenes to keep the currency stable, the peso ended off 0.8 percent at 3.1425/3.1450 per dollar ARS=RASL. (Reporting by Walter Bianchi and Jorge Otaola, translating by Fiona Ortiz; editing by Leslie Adler)