June 23, 2008 / 9:09 PM / in 12 years

Argentine stocks rise on farm conflict optimism

BUENOS AIRES, June 23 (Reuters) - Argentine stocks gained on Monday for the fourth straight session on investor hopes a meeting between President Cristina Fernandez and farm leaders will ease tensions in a drawn-out conflict over farm export taxes.

The benchmark MerVal stock index .MERV rose 1.22 percent to 2,091.55 points, lifted by gains in bank Banco Hipotecario BHI.BA, which climbed 9.32 percent to close at 1.29 pesos.

The MerVal has risen 2.73 percent since Wednesday.

Fernandez and farm leaders are expected to sit down later on Monday for the first time since mid-April. Farmers have launched a series of strikes to protest a hike on grains exports.

Hoping to defuse the conflict, the Argentine leader asked Congress last week to vote on the tax, and lawmakers began discussing the issue on Monday.

“Congress taking up the tax issue added optimism to the market,” said Jorge Alberti, an analyst at ElAccionista.com.

Trade volume was a slack $18.2 million. Of active issues 43 rose, 30 fell and 18 were unchanged.

On the foreign exchange market, the peso ARS=RASL firmed to a near 30-month high, rising 0.5 percent to close at 3.0175/3.2 per dollar.

In informal trade between foreign exchange houses, as measured by Reuters, the peso strengthened 0.65 percent to 3.0775/3.08 per dollar ARSB=, a level last reached at the end of 2006.

Argentine bonds <AR/BONOS> also rose as investors looked toward the meeting.

Government debt traded on the local market rose 0.7 percent on average. The session’s gainers were led by the dollar-denominated Par bond, which climbed 1.4 percent while the same bond in pesos fell 1.2 percent.

“The hope of an eventual agreement in the farm conflict brought in some institutional investors,” said one trader who asked not to be named. (Reporting by Jorge Otaola and Walter Bianchi; Writing by Kevin Gray; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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