BUENOS AIRES, April 17 (Reuters) - The Argentine peso fell to its weakest level in nearly six-months on Thursday due to exceptionally big dollar-purchases by private banks and the central bank, traders said.
They said increasingly tense negotiations between the country's farmers and government officials spurred private banks to buy dollars as a precautionary measure. Farmers suspended a three-week strike on April 2 for 30 days, but uncertainty lingers.
Against the dollar, the peso weakened 0.24 percent to 3.1725/3.1750 ARS=RASL in formal interbank trade, where the central bank regularly intervenes.
The private banks' buying of dollars coincided with the central bank's activity in the market.
In informal trade between foreign exchange houses, as measured by Reuters, the peso ARSB= depreciated 0.86 percent to 3.2200/3.2250.
The peso had not closed as such weak values since Oct. 25, 2007, days before Argentine President Cristina Fernandez won the general elections, taking over from her husband.
The farm strike, which presented Fernandez with the biggest challenge of her presidency, badly affected grains exports from one of the world's top grains suppliers.
The slowed-down grains market as discussions lag has also severed the market from part of its steady inflow of the U.S. currency.
The Argentine stock market remained virtually unchanged as weakness from financial shares offset strength from oil-related shares amid record crude oil prices.
The benchmark MerVal stock index .MERV rose 0.01 percent to 2,161.76 points.
"The market remains flat, hit by the persistent losses in bank shares," said Guido Macchi, a trader at a brokerage that bears his name.
On the broad market, volume shrank to $22.4 million. Of the active issues, 41 advanced, 28 declined and 18 ended unchanged.
Meanwhile, on the debt market, government bonds <AR/BONOS> fell 0.8 percent as investors decry alleged manipulation of official inflation figure and uncertainty over negotiations between farmers and the government persist.
The session's losers were led by the dollar-denominated Par bond, which shed 2.4 percent in over-the-counter trade. (Reporting by Jorge Otaola; Writing by Gaspard Sebag)