Argentina stocks sink on U.S. recession fears

viernes 7 de marzo de 2008 20:06 ARST

BUENOS AIRES, March 7 (Reuters) - Argentine stocks tumbled on Friday in tandem with Wall Street after U.S. jobs data showed the biggest monthly job decline in nearly five years and revived fears of a recession in the world's leading economy.

The benchmark MerVal index .MERV ended down 2.25 percent to 2,129.84 points, accumulating a 1.5 percent drop this week.

"The MerVal was strongly affected by the complicated day in the U.S. market after the release of the job data," said Ruben Pascuali, a trader at Mayoral brokerage.

Wall Street, already pressured by a report that showed the economy shed jobs again in February, fell to session lows on Friday after Thornburg Mortgage Inc TMA.N, a struggling mortgage lender, said it has as much as $610 million of margin call exposure that significantly exceeds its available cash, putting its survival at stake.

The drop on the MerVal was linked to loses in oil-related shares because of a fall in crude oil prices.

"The MerVal followed the drop of (external markets) with a clear profit-taking linked to Tenaris shares, which flooded onto Petrobras Participaciones and Brazil's Petrobras," added Pascuali.

Losers were lead by heavyweight Tenaris TENA.BA (TS.N: Cotización), the top global maker of steel tubes for the oil and natural gas industry, which closed down 4.83 percent to 74.8 pesos per share. Brazilian state-run energy firm Petrobras APBR.BA dropped 3.23 percent to 180 pesos.

Volume on the broad market was light at $29.9 million. Of the active issues, 58 declined, 7 advanced and 15 ended unchanged.

Meanwhile, government debt prices <AR/BONOS> fell 1.2 percent on average. The session's losers were led by the peso-denominated Par bond, which dropped 2.1 percent.

The peso weakened 0.08 percent to close at 3.1550/3.1575 per dollar ARS=RASL in formal interbank trade, where the central bank normally intervenes.

On the other hand, in informal trade between foreign exchange houses, as measured by Reuters, the peso ARSB= firmed the same percentage to 3.1700/3.1725 per dollar. (Reporting by Walter Bianchi and Jorge Otaola; Writing by Gaspard Sebag; editing by Gary Crosse)