26 de marzo de 2008 / 22:07 / en 10 años

Argentine peso hits five-month low on farm strike

(Adds broad stock market volume)

BUENOS AIRES, March 26 (Reuters) - The Argentine peso slumped to a five-month low on Wednesday as a two-week-old strike by farmers slashed dollar inflows from agricultural exports.

Bonds slid on perceptions of greater political risk in Argentina due to the strike, but stocks shrugged off the news.

The strike to protest against a government tax hike has disrupted grains and other exports, causing some companies to declare force majeure on Argentine soy shipments.

Force majeure is a contract clause that allows a supplier to forego an obligation to supply in extreme unforeseen circumstance.

In informal trade between foreign exchange houses, as measured by Reuters, the Argentine peso ARSB= slipped 0.47 percent to 3.1900/3.1925 pesos per dollar, closing at its weakest point since Oct. 31.

The peso ARS=RASL also depreciated 0.24 percent to end at 3.1675/3.1700 per dollar in formal interbank trade.

“Amid an agitated day due to news about the farmers strike, the exchange market was clearly buying and forced the Central Bank to sell dollars at 3.17 (pesos) to slow down the weakening of the currency,” said Fernando Izzo, an analyst at ABC Market Exchange.

In recent years, windfall profit from high-priced soy and other grains exports has spurred a flood of dollars into Argentina; the Central Bank usually buys up dollars to keep the peso weak, keeping the country’s exports competitive.

Dollar reserves have grown to historic levels and on Tuesday they stood at $50.45 billion.

STOCKS, BONDS

Argentine stocks rose slightly on Wednesday as gains in index heavyweight Tenaris (TENA.BA), a maker of steel tubes for the oil and gas industry, offset a downturn on Wall Street fueled by the sale of financial shares.

The benchmark MerVal .MERV index closed up 0.55 percent to 2,079.79 points. Tenaris gained 2.8 percent to close at 79.25 pesos per share.

Agricultural firms traded on the MerVal hold little sway over the market as their volume is very small.

On the broad market, volume was a weakish $27.5 million. Of the active issues, 29 advanced, 33 declined and 16 ended unchanged.

On the bond market, the farm strike and negative economic indicators in the United States made investors cautious, traders said.

Government debt prices <AR/BONOS> fell 1.0 percent on average, with the peso-denominated Discount bond dropping 2.3 percent and the dollar-denominated Discount falling 2.2 percent.

“Bond investments were pressured by the bad news. The U.S. economic indicators are disturbing and now the farmers strike is shrinking investor appetite for local assets,” a trader said. (Reporting by Walter Bianchi, Writing by Gaspard Sebag; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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