August 22, 2008 / 9:57 PM / 12 years ago

Energy, banking shares lift Argentine stocks

BUENOS AIRES, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Argentine stocks closed higher on Friday driven by energy-related and banking shares but a drop in oil prices limited gains.

The benchmark MerVal stocks index .MERV rose 0.85 percent to close at 1,760.98 points, after falling 0.54 in early trading.

Media reports the government was taking initial steps to negotiate an agreement to repay Argentina’s $6.3 billion in defaulted debt with the Paris Club also influenced the market, traders said.

“The MerVal reacted timidly to the reports,” said Augusto Farina, a trader at Amirante Galitis brokerage.

Government officials did not immediately comment on the reports.

Trade volume on the overall market was $37 million. Of active shares, 60 gained, 44 fell and 20 were unchanged.

Power firm Pampa Holding PAM.BA helped pace gainers, rising 2.19 percent to 1.4 pesos. Banco Macro (BMA.BA)(BMA.N) also climbed 1.86 percent 6.01 pesos.

Index heavyweight Tenaris TENA.BA, the world’s leading producer of seamless steel tubes for the energy industry, shed 2.97 percent to 81.8 pesos as global oil prices fell almost $7.

Brazil’s state-run energy firm Petrobas APBR.BA(PETR4.SA) slid 2.34 percent to 81.5 pesos.

Argentine bonds traded on the domestic market rose slightly following three straight sessions of losses after the government announced it will start holding auctions through the rest of the year as part of debt buyback plan to shore up sagging bond prices.

The government started buying back bonds since last week in a bid to stabilize prices that recently plunged on investor concern over the country’s financing outlook.

High inflation and falling prices for soy, which is Argentina’s top foreign income earner, have raised concerns the government could face financing shortfalls next year.

Argentine bonds rose on average 0.5 percent, led by dollar-denominated Disc paper, which gained 1 percent.

On the foreign exchange market, the peso closed virtually flat, steadied by central bank intervention, traders said.

In formal interbank trade, where the central bank regularly intervenes to stabilize the local currency, the peso ARS=RASL ended at 3.0225/3.025 per dollar.

In informal trade between foreign exchange houses, as measured by Reuters, the peso closed at 3.0675/3.07 per dollar. (Reporting by Walter Bianchi and Jorge Otaola; Writing by Kevin Gray; Editing by Diane Craft)

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