January 27, 2009 / 10:54 PM / in 11 years

Argentina peso plumbs 2002 crisis lows, stocks up

BUENOS AIRES, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Argentina’s peso ARS=RASL slipped to lows not seen since the country’s 2002 economic crisis on Tuesday while stocks climbed in line with Wall Street.

In informal trade between foreign exchange houses, as measured by Reuters, the peso currency closed down 0.21 percent at 3.5275/3.5325 per dollar ARSB=.

Dollar demand was steady as money managers anticipated continued purchases of greenbacks by the central bank, which is on a campaign to build its reserves.

Policy-makers want to strengthen the bank’s reserve position as the world economic crisis deepens yet keep the peso weak enough to make the country’s exports competitive with those of neighboring Brazil.

The peso has not been this weak since Argentina’s shock currency devaluation in 2002, which was accompanied by the world’s biggest sovereign debt default and an economic crisis in the South American country.

Pushed by a rise in U.S. shares, the Argentine benchmark MerVal stock index .MERV rose 1.1 percent to 1,079.38 points. On the broad market, volume was a light $11.5 million. Among active issues 21 advanced, 20 declined and 16 were unchanged.

Argentine government bonds traded over-the-counter in Buenos Aires rose 1.4 percent on average as the market awaited the results of a loan swap to be carried out by the government this week aimed at improving the country’s debt profile.

Argentina expects to reduce its 2009 debt payments by $860 million through a swap of so-called guaranteed loans.

President Cristina Fernandez is trying to improve Argentina’s debt profile as the world credit crisis saps investment and commodity export revenues.

Credit pressure is mounting as the government faces about $20 billion in total debt payments this year. Some $4.17 billion of those payments are on guaranteed loans, which were issued in 2001 prior to a massive sovereign default. (Reporting by Jorge Otaola; Writing by Hugh Bronstein; editing by Gary Crosse)

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