BUENOS AIRES, Jan 2 (Reuters) - Argentine stocks closed little changed on Wednesday as gains among energy companies after oil hit $100 a barrel offset losses tied to a sharp drop on Wall Street.
The MerVal index .MERV of the 42 leading stocks rose 0.01 in the first session of the year to at 2,151.74 points.
"The clouds caused by outside markets were limited by the record crude oil price," said Marcelo Paccione, an analyst at ConsulCapital.
The Dow Jones industrial average got off to its worst start of any year after data showed a surprise contraction in manufacturing and crude oil prices surged to $100 a barrel, raising the specter of stagflation in the United States.
Among Wednesday's biggest decliners was Banco Patagonia BPAT.BA, which fell 7.69 percent to 3.6 pesos a share.
On the broad market, volume was moderate at $49.7 million, and 32 active issues advanced, 40 declined and nine were unchanged.
Sovereign debt on the local market finished mixed on Wednesday in thin trade in the first session after the New Year holiday.
In Buenos Aires, bonds finished the day with an average gain of 0.4 percent <AR/BONOS> with wide variations. The peso-denominated Boden 2014 rose 0.7 percent ARBODEN14=RASL while the Discount bond in pesos fell 1.1 percent ARDISCP=RASL in over-the-counter trade.
In informal trade between foreign exchange houses, as measured by Reuters, the peso firmed by 0.24 percent at 3.1625/3.165 per dollar ARSB= in light, steady trade. The peso weakened 2.6 percent in 2007.
In formal interbank trade, where the central bank intervenes directly, the peso strengthened by just 0.08 percent to end at 3.145/3.1475 per dollar ARS=RASL. (Reporting by Walter Bianchi and Jorge Otaola; Editing by Frank McGurty; Translated by Helen Popper)