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Argentina's Bold Economic Reforms: Peso Plunges, Markets React

In a bold move, Argentina's government has permitted a drastic devaluation of the peso, allowing it to plunge over 50% to 801 per dollar. This comes as part of President Javier Milei's ambitious plan to revive the country's struggling economy. The libertarian president's administration, which rode into office with promises of sweeping economic reforms, aims to address issues such as negative net foreign currency reserves, entrenched capital controls, soaring inflation nearing 200%, and years of economic stagnation.

Argentina's Bold Economic Reforms: Peso Plunges, Markets React

The new Economy Minister, Luis Caputo, announced a series of measures on Tuesday, including significant spending cuts, the reduction of energy subsidies, downsizing the government, and halting public works tenders in an effort to eliminate the deficit. Argentina expert Bruno Gennari at KNG Securities commented, "The news is positive. It is a massive fiscal effort, with 3 percentage points of GDP of spending cuts and 2.2% of additional revenues."

As a result of these measures, international sovereign dollar bonds experienced gains, trading between 35.7-41.25 cents on the dollar, marking their highest levels since 2021. US-listed shares of Argentine firms exhibited mixed reactions in early trading, with state oil firm YPF rising 1.3%, while financials like Grupo Supervielle and Grupo Financiero Galicia declined by 2.7% and 1.7%, respectively.

The move led to a sharp devaluation of the peso in non-deliverable FX forwards, with one-year forwards reaching a level of 1,687. The black market peso, a popular benchmark for the currency's true value due to years of capital controls, dropped around 7% to 1,150 per dollar. However, the gap with the official rate narrowed significantly from 191% to 44% following Caputo's announcement.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which had taken a stern stance on its $44 billion program with Argentina, welcomed the "bold" changes, seeing them as potentially stabilizing the economy and promoting growth. Jimena Blanco, chief analyst with Verisk Maplecroft, noted that the government is attempting to avert an inevitable crash-landing but raised concerns about popular patience lasting through the challenging economic situation.

Barclays highlighted the key challenge of the reforms being the "governability," as they could accelerate inflation sharply and trigger a recession. The central bank announced it would maintain interest rates at 133%, and Caputo outlined a 2% monthly crawling peg devaluation path for the peso. In response to criticism, presidential spokesman Manuel Adorni emphasized the urgency of the situation, stating, "We have found a patient in intensive care on the verge of dying. We are going to do everything we can not only to bring down the fever but to save him from the disease that is killing him."



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