BUENOS AIRES, Dec 29 (Reuters) - Argentine stocks rose on Monday in light holiday trade, getting a lift from banking and energy-related stocks, while the peso slipped to its weakest level since late 2002.
The benchmark MerVal index .MERV ended 1.68 percent higher at 1,076.41 points, bringing its gain since the start of the month to 8.29 percent.
"The MerVal again took refuge in banking stocks due to the strength of sovereign debt, while Petrobras gained from high oil prices," said Claudio Szlaien, an analyst at Marlon Financial Resources.
Local banks are leading holders of Argentine bonds, meaning they get a lift from rising debt prices.
Banking group Grupo Financiero Galicia (GFG.BA) rose 3.24 percent to 0.86 pesos per share, while Brazil's state energy company Petrobras APBR.BA (PETR4.SA) climbed 2.45 percent to 39.9 pesos a share in Buenos Aires.
Trade volume was meager at $6 million. Of active issues 29 advanced, 21 declined and 10 were unchanged.
On the local debt market, sovereign bond prices gained 1.4 percent on average in over-the-counter trade, with the dollar-denominated Par 2038 ARPARD=RASL rising 4 percent to an ask price of 19.15.
Bond traders said the market is getting a lift from end-of-year bargain-hunting.
On the foreign exchange market, the peso slumped 0.71 percent to close at 3.515/3.520 per dollar ARSB= in informal trade between foreign exchange houses, as measured by Reuters.
That marked its weakest level since late 2002.
In formal interbank trade ARS=RASL, where the central bank intervenes, the peso edged down just 0.07 percent to 3.4425/3.4450 per U.S. dollar.
Traders said dollar demand rose to meet end-of-year commitments in dollars, adding that activity remained light ahead of the New Year holiday.
Argentina's peso has fallen 9.8 percent this year in informal trade and 8.5 percent in interbank trade. (Reporting by Walter Bianchi, Writing by Helen Popper, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)