Argentina burns reserves, asks for early International Monetary Fund help as peso crashes

Posted September 02, 2018

The sliding value of the currency prompted Argentina to seek a financing deal earlier this year with the International Monetary Fund and President Mauricio Macri now is asking for an early release of those funds.

The Argentine peso fell 0.5 percent to a record 31.5 per US dollar on Wednesday after the announcement.

Nerves are frayed in Latin America's No. 3 economy as it struggles to break free from its notorious cycle of once-a-decade financial crises. The crisis 17 years ago resulted in one of every five Argentines being unemployed, millions sliding into poverty and some reporting going hungry.

The Argentine peso has lost more than 40% of its value against the U.S. dollar this year and inflation is rampant. "This decision aims to eliminate any uncertainty that was created before the worsening of the global outlook".

"Over the past week, we have had new expressions of lack of confidence in the markets, especially over our ability to obtain financing for 2019", Macri acknowledged.

I have instructed IMF staff to work with the Argentine authorities to strengthen the Fund-supported arrangement and to reexamine the phasing of the financial program.

The IMF acknowledged in an announcement Wednesday that it might perchance perchance maybe detect to "revise the executive's economic view with a focal point on better insulating Argentina from fresh shifts in world financial markets". The country has $24.9 billion in peso- and foreign currency-denominated debt payments next year.

Then in December, officials announced a rise in the inflation target, which caused investors to begin doubting Macri's commitment to taming price rises.

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"The potential for a return of Peronism to Argentinian politics is one that will deeply concern the markets given the awkward relationship investors had with the Kirchner dynasty between 2003-2015.

The economy contracted 6.7 percent in June, the third month in a row of negative growth, and the annual growth rate was a negative 0.6 percent. Not only would budget belt-tightening likely deepen the economic recession toward which the country now seems to be lurching, it is also that the Macri government would not seem to have the political support for such belt-tightening, especially ahead of next year's general election.

Mr Macri's decision to ask the International Monetary Fund for help in May was criticised by many within his country.

The South American nation's central bank said the rate hike from 45% was in response to ongoing currency woes and a move to counter the risk of greater impact on local inflation.

The peso's Thursday decline followed an earlier fall of 7% on Wednesday, culminating in the currency's steepest decline since it floated in 2015.

The government expects Argentina's economy to contract 1 percent in 2018 but grow by at least 1.5 percent next year. Two smaller union groupings said they will go on a 36-hour strike on September 24 to protest the International Monetary Fund, which many blame for the 2002 crisis.

The worldwide lender has admitted that it had a made a string of mistakes that contributed to Argentina's economic implosion. "I understand this, and I resolve on you to know I'm making all decisions needed to guard you", Macri acknowledged.

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