Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Argentina new economy chief will not allow 'irrational' run on peso

By Hugh Bronstein and Hernan Nessi

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina will not allow a chaotic fall in the peso and will use its dollar reserves to bolster the currency against political uncertainty that has swept the country since the Aug. 11 primary election, Treasury Minister Hernan Lacunza said on Wednesday.

The peso opened 0.47% weaker at 55 to the U.S. dollar and the country's risk spread was 8 basis points tighter at 1,855 over safe-haven U.S. treasury bonds , reflecting a calming of recent market jitters.

"We will not allow an irrational run on the currency. That's why we have international reserves," Lacunza told local radio station Mitre in an early morning interview, less than 24 hours after being sworn in as treasury chief.

Later on Wednesday, Lacunza was scheduled to meet with economic advisors to center-left presidential candidate Alberto Fernandez, who crushed business-friendly incumbent Mauricio Macri in the presidential primary vote. The primary result sent the peso spiraling down 18% last week.

"Since the market pays as much attention to the future as it does to the present, in addition to what the government in charge can do, it also matters what the other candidates and their economic teams say, to generate certainty towards the future," Lacunza said, when asked about the meeting with the Fernandez team scheduled for later in the day.

Fernandez is now the clear front-runner ahead of the Oct. 27 presidential election. Macri has enacted a series of emergency economic measures, including cuts in food and personal income taxes, aimed at helping families stung by Argentina's recession and 55% inflation rate.

Nicolas Dujovne, the former treasury minister, quit on Saturday, saying he believed the country needed "significant renewal" of its economic team.

The currency stabilized on Tuesday, after the central bank poured $112 million of its reserves into dollar auctions.

Including last week's interventions, the bank had auctioned off $615 million in dollar reserves as of Tuesday afternoon, traders said.

Lacunza said Argentina would hit its target of erasing the country's primary fiscal deficit this year, under a $57 billion standby financing pact signed in 2018 with the International Monetary Fund. Macri negotiated the pact to halt a run on the peso last year.

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