Argentine stocks dip on profit-taking, trade choppy

miércoles 12 de marzo de 2008 19:25 ARST

BUENOS AIRES, March 12 (Reuters) - Argentine stocks slipped on Wednesday due to profit-taking on shares with high liquidity amid overall weakness in regional markets, traders said.

The benchmark MerVal index .MERV closed down 0.48 percent to 2,134.14 points, in choppy trade, after ending 2.08 percent higher on Tuesday.

"It was a quiet session in which the MerVal followed the trend in external markets and investors took profits in shares such as Tenaris and Ledesma," said Guido Macchi, a broker at Julio Macchi brokerage.

The MerVal was pressured by Wall Street's slip, as euphoria abated over the U.S. Federal Reserve's effort to ease strained credit markets and oil topped $110 a barrel.

The session's losses were led by index heavyweight Tenaris TENA.BA, a top global producer of steel tubes for the natural gas and oil industry, which fell 0.45 percent to 78.25 pesos per share, and agricultural firm and paper-maker Ledesma LED.BA, which sank 3.17 percent to 5.8 pesos.

In the broad market, volume was a moderate $30.7 million. Of the active issues, 39 declined, 23 advanced and 20 ended unchanged.

Meanwhile, government debt prices <AR/BONOS> fell 0.3 percent on average. Prices were mixed with the peso-denominated Par bond jumping 2.4 percent in over-the-counter trade, while the same paper denominated in dollars shed 1.3 percent.

The peso closed stable at 3.1500/3.1525 per dollar ARS=RASL in formal interbank trade, where the central bank normally intervenes.

In informal trade between foreign exchange houses, as measured by Reuters, the peso ARSB= also remained unchanged at 3.1700/3.1725 per dollar. (Reporting by Walter Bianchi and Jorge Otaola; Writing by Gaspard Sebag; Editing by Leslie Adler)