January 29, 2008 / 9:43 PM / in 12 years

Argentina bonds, peso firm eyeing Fed; stocks flat

BUENOS AIRES, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Argentine stocks closed flat on Tuesday after reversing earlier gains due to investor concerns that the U.S. Federal Reserve could opt for a smaller-than-expected interest rate cut, traders said.

The MerVal index .MERV of 42 leading stocks closed virtually unchanged at 2,003.86 points after climbing as much as 1.6 percent during the session.

The U.S. government reported on Tuesday that new orders for durable manufactured goods rose more-than-expected last month.

The figure was initially read as a positive sign by markets, but investors later started to think the data could prompt a smaller rate cut by the Fed this week.

“We’re totally dependent on the mood in foreign markets,” a trader in Buenos Aires said.

Among the MerVal’s strongest stocks was Tenaris TENA.BA (TENR.MI) TS.N, the world’s top producer of seamless steel tubes for the oil industry. It rose 4.46 percent to 65.45 pesos per share.

The company announced this week it had agreed to sell its Hydril pressure control business to General Electric Co (GE.N) for $1.12 billion on a debt-free basis.

On Tuesday, Cheuvreux raised its Tenaris rating to “outperform” from “underperform.”

Volume on the broad market was a moderate $25.3 million with 44 issues advancing, 46 retreating and 14 unchanged.

Argentine bonds <AR/BONOS> rose on the domestic market as investors prepared their portfolios to the expected interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve.

Lower interest rates in the United States draw investors to riskier emerging markets where they can get higher returns.

Bonds rose 0.4 percent on average, led by the dollar-denominated Boden 14, which gained 0.9 percent.

The expectation of a fresh U.S. interest rate cut also strengthened the peso. It firmed 0.16 percent in informal trade between foreign exchange houses, as measured by Reuters, to 3.1775/3.18 pesos per dollar ARSB=.

In formal interbank trade, the peso ARS=RASL closed stable at 3.15/3.1525 per dollar.

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