Argentine stocks close flat after up-and-down day

martes 19 de febrero de 2008 19:12 ARST

BUENOS AIRES Feb 19 (Reuters) - Argentine stocks zig-zagged to an almost steady close on Tuesday with some profit taking at the end of the session cancelling out earlier gains.

The MerVal index .MERV of 42 leading stocks closed up just 0.11 percent at 2,062.82 points, the highest close in two weeks, but off the session high of 2,076.

"It was a day of ups-and-downs, with clear profit-taking at the end of the session provoked by regional market falls generated by the fear of $100-per-barrel oil and tomorrow's (Wednesday) inflation data in the United States," said Claudio Szlaien, a analyst at Marlon Recursos Financieros brokerage.

The U.S. government is due to announce January inflation on Wednesday.

The day's winners were led by petrochemical firm Indupa INU.BA gaining 4.42 percent to 5.2 pesos per share. Among the biggest drops was natural gas distributor Transporte de Gas del Sur TGS2.BA, falling 2.19 percent to 3.13 pesos.

Volume on the broad market was a moderate $37.7 million, with 42 issues advancing, 35 retreating and 22 unchanged.

On the local debt market, Argentina's main sovereign bonds <AR/BONOS> closed 1.0 higher on average led by a 1.0 percent rise in dollar-denominated Par bonds.

The peso currency ARS=RASL was stable at 3.1525/3.1550 per dollar in formal interbank trade, where the central bank normally intervenes.

In informal trade between foreign exchange houses, as measured by Reuters, the peso ARSB= was also unchanged at 3.1725/3.1750 per dollar. (Reporting by Jorge Otaola; Writing by Gaspard Sebag)