Argentine stocks inch higher in volatile trade

miércoles 17 de diciembre de 2008 19:39 ARST

BUENOS AIRES Dec 17 (Reuters) - Argentine stocks rose in choppy trade on Wednesday, lifted by institutional investor interest in heavyweight Tenaris, a top global maker of steel tubes for the energy industry, while bonds rose.

The benchmark MerVal index .MERV inched 0.4 percent higher to close at 1,147.97 points, accumulating a 24.1 percent gain over the last 11 consecutive sessions.

"Energy-related shares helped the MerVal avoid from falling into negative territory," said Jorge Alberti, an analyst at

Tenaris TENA.BATS.N rose 2.91 percent to 38.9 pesos.

On the broad market, volume was light at $17.2 million and of active issues 36 advanced, 22 declined and 12 were unchanged.

Locally traded government bonds climbed as investors moved back into the market after four straight sessions of losses. Debt prices rose 6.5 percent on average, led by a 6.5 percent gain in dollar-denominated Disc paper ARDISCD=RASL.

Media reports saying the government might launch a debt swap had pushed bond prices lower this week.

On the foreign exchange market, the peso closed mixed in a market heavily regulated by the central bank.

"In the last few days, it seems monetary authorities have set a floor of 3.40 pesos to the dollar, taking into account maintaining export competitiveness as other regional currencies weaken," said Fernando Izzo, an analyst at ABC Mercado de Cambios.

In formal trade between banks the peso weakened 0.15 percent to 3.405/3.4075 per dollar ARS=RASL. In trade between foreign exchange houses, as measured by Reuters, the peso strengthened 0.22 percent to 3.46/3.465 per dollar ARSB=.

(Reporting by Jorge Otaola and Walter Bianchi, Writing by Kevin Gray)