BUENOS AIRES, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Argentine stocks closed down on Friday due to fears of a U.S. economic slowdown following the release of worse-than-expected jobs data, traders said.
The MerVal index .MERV of the 42 leading stocks closed down 1.0 percent to 2,129.06 points, clocking up a loss of 1.06 percent since the start of the year.
"The MerVal was again pressured by a negative external context because of the U.S. employment data, though there's some expectation for some announcement of a package of measures to stimulate the economy by U.S. President George W. Bush," said Ruben Pascuali, a trader at Mayoral Bursatil brokerage.
Bush told Reuters in an interview on Thursday he was considering measures aimed at boosting the economy.
Trade volume on the broad market was a moderate $31.8 million and of active shares, 21 rose, 38 declined and 15 were unchanged.
Among the losers were the banking groups, Hipotecario BHI.BA, which shed 4.8 percent to 2.18 pesos per share and Banco Frances (FRA.BA), down 3.7 percent to 7.80 pesos per share.
However, big gains by Petrobras Participaciones PCH.BA, the local unit of Brazilian energy firm Petrobras (PETR4.SA) stopped the market sliding further. The stock traded up 9.49 percent to 4.73 pesos per share on market rumors.
Meanwhile, sovereign debt on the local market fell on Friday, mirroring losses in other emerging markets due to the fears of a recession, which would cut investment flows to emerging markets.
In Buenos Aires, bonds finished the day with an average loss of 0.6 percent <AR/BONOS>, with bonds denominated in pesos taking the hardest hit.
In informal trade between foreign exchange houses, as measured by Reuters, the peso was steady at 3.17/3.1725 per dollar ARSB=. The peso currency shed 2.6 percent in 2007.
The currency firmed 0.08 percent to end at 3.1375/3.14 per dollar ARS=RASL in formal interbank trade, where the central bank intervenes directly. (Reporting by Walter Bianchi and Jorge Otaola; Writing by Helen Popper. Editing by Richard Satran)