June 20, 2008 / 9:13 PM / 12 years ago

Argentina stocks inch higher, bonds keep slipping

BUENOS AIRES, June 20 (Reuters) - Argentine stocks inched higher on Friday, thanks to a rebound in depressed banking shares, while the peso ended mixed and bonds continued to shed value.

The benchmark MerVal stock index .MERV edged up 0.14 percent to 2,066.28 points, buoyed by a 9.26-percent jump in the share price of Argentine bank Banco Hipotecario BHI.BA, which ended at 1.18 pesos.

The MerVal accumulated a 1.49 percent gain in the last three sessions despite an ongoing tax dispute between farmers and the government. Farmers are due to end their latest commercial strike later on Friday, which could pave the way for talks.

The government also sent its controversial export tax measure to Congress this week, which eased tensions.

“The apparent truce between the government and the farm sector allowed the MerVal to once again remain insulated from external market turbulence,” said Diego Zavaleta, a trader at Besfamille brokerage.

“That’s why everything was concentrated again in banking shares,” he added.

Trade volume was a brisk $38.4 million. Among active issues 21 rose, 38 fell and 14 were unchanged.

Argentina’s peso closed mixed as the central bank’s dollar sales slowed somewhat, traders said.

The peso ARS=RASL closed unchanged at 3.0325/3.0350 per dollar after firming early in formal interbank trade, where the central bank intervenes.

In informal trade between foreign exchange houses, as measured by Reuters, the peso strengthened 0.32 percent to 3.0975/3.1000 per dollar ARSB=.

The central bank has sold some of its foreign reserves to bolster the peso amid the uncertainty caused by a prolonged tax dispute between the government and farmers.

A new rule allowing other financial institutions to sell more dollars on the market went into effect on Friday, which traders said should ease the central bank’s burden.

Meanwhile, government debt traded on the local market took a negative turn late in the day, falling 0.7 percent on average in over-the-counter trade. Investors were cautious and trade volume was modest, traders said.

The session’s losses were led by dollar-denominated Par paper, which shed 2.1 percent. (Reporting by Jorge Otaola and Walter Bianchi; Writing by Hilary Burke; editing by Gary Crosse)

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