June 11, 2008 / 8:55 PM / 12 years ago

Argentina stocks follow region lower, banks hurt

BUENOS AIRES, June 11 (Reuters) - Argentine stocks slumped on Wednesday for a fourth straight session, tracking losses elsewhere in the Americas amid jitters over a possible U.S. rate hike and further financial sector losses, traders said.

The benchmark MerVal stocks index .MERV fell 1.78 percent to end at 2,072.08 points, accumulating a 5.4 percent loss since last Thursday.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was down nearly 1.7 percent when the MerVal closed. Brazilian .BVSP and Mexican .MXX stocks were also trading sharply lower.

“The MerVal’s fall was affected by the international scenario, given the nervousness in banking shares and losses in other markets,” said Juan Diedrich, a trader at Capital Markets Argentina brokerage.

Financial-sector shares were the hardest hit on Wednesday and the MerVal’s losses were led by BBVA Banco Frances FRA.BA, which shed 7.5 percent to end at 5.65 pesos a share.

Shares in leading Argentine banking group Grupo Financiero Galicia GFG.BA closed at a four-year low after falling 1.8 percent to 1.62 pesos.

On Argentina’s broad market, volume was thin at around $22 million. Of active issues, 8 advanced, 65 declined and 10 were unchanged.

If the U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates to cool inflation expectations, higher-yielding but riskier emerging markets assets would lose some of their allure.

Government debt traded locally inched higher by an average 0.3 percent, fueled by selective purchases by state-run banks, traders said. Gains were led by a 2.4 percent jump in peso-denominated Discount bonds.

The Argentine peso firmed again as exporters cashed in their dollars for pesos in a quiet session, amid expectations that the central bank will keep selling greenbacks to sustain the local currency, traders said.

In formal interbank trade, the peso strengthened 0.16 percent to 3.0575/3.0600 per dollar ARS=RASL.

In informal trade between foreign exchange houses, as measured by Reuters, the peso ended 0.48 percent firmer at 3.1250/3.1275 per dollar ARSB=. (Reporting by Jorge Otaola and Walter Bianchi; Writing by Hilary Burke)

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