Argentine stocks advance cautiously eyeing U.S.

viernes 22 de febrero de 2008 19:08 ARST

BUENOS AIRES Feb 22 (Reuters) - Argentine stocks closed slightly higher in light trade on Friday as investors remained cautious amid prospects for a U.S. recession.

Investors favored export-related issues over financial shares, traders said.

The benchmark MerVal index .MERV closed 0.23 percent higher at 2,088.36 points, closing the week with a gain of 2.42 percent.

Shares in index heavyweight Tenaris TENA.BA TS.N rose 1.69 percent to 66.1 pesos a share in Buenos Aires.

"Merrill Lynch's recent (buy) recommendation on Tenaris is channeling liquidity toward a reshuffling of portfolios," said Dionisio Corneille, who heads a brokerage bearing his name.

Volume on the broad market was a modest $25.5 million, and of the active issues, 26 advanced, 31 declined and 16 were unchanged.

Government debt prices eased 0.5 percent on average as investors awaited U.S. economic data.

The session's biggest loser was the Par bond in pesos, which shed 1.3 percent in over-the-counter trade.

The peso closed 0.32 percent weaker at 3.1550/3.1575 per dollar ARS=RASL in formal interbank trade, reaching its lowest level this week due to private demand for dollars and central bank intervention.

In informal trade between foreign exchange houses, as measured by Reuters, the peso ARSB= firmed 0.16 percent to 3.1750/3.1775 per dollar. The central bank does not intervene in the informal market. (Reporting by Walter Bianchi and Jorge Otaola; Writing by Lisa Yulkowski; Editing by Dan Grebler)