BUENOS AIRES, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Argentine stocks closed higher on Tuesday in a spurt of buying just before the end of the session, as bellwether issue steel-pipe maker Tenaris (TENA.BA) turned positive.
The benchmark MerVal index .MERV gained 0.33 percent to 1,131.96 after falling during most of the day. Volume was low at $12 million. Of active issues, 20 advanced, 37 declined and 13 were unchanged.
Tenaris, which is weighted as more than a third of the MerVal, was down early in the day but closed 0.78 percent higher at 38.75 pesos per share. Tenaris, which makes steel pipes for the oil industry, often moves in tandem with oil prices, which settled higher on Tuesday.
"At the end of the session the market had an interesting reaction of service sector companies," said Leopoldo Olivari, trader with Bacque brokerage, who also said the losses during most of the day were following the negativity on Wall Street.
Argentine government bonds traded over the counter in Buenos Aires mostly fell on Tuesday, led by a 5 percent fall in the Boden 2014 bond ARBODEN14D=RASL to an ask price of 11.4.
Traders said bond sentiment was gloomy after a U.S. court ruling in favor of holders of defaulted Argentine debt, which is seen as possibly complicating government plans to use debt swaps to take shorter-term bonds and loans off the market.
The peso currency, which the Central Bank controls through a managed float, closed flat.
"It's clear the Central Bank wants the exchange rate at around 3.45 (pesos per dollar) so traders are calm for the moment," said one trader.
In formal exchange between banks the peso ended at 3.4475/3.4500 per dollar ARS=RASL, unchanged from a day earlier. In informal trade between foreign exchange houses, as measured by Reuters, it was also unchanged at 3.5150/3.5200 ARSB=. (Reporting by Jorge Otaola and Walter Bianchi; Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by James Dalgleish)