By Walter Bianchi and Jorge Otaola
BUENOSAIRES (Reuters) – Argentina’s peso currency traded 1.83% weaker at 57.35 per U.S. dollar on Wednesday, cutting what had been steeper losses early in the day as the central bank sold $191 million (£156 million) of its reserves in four interventions aimed at controlling the peso’s fall.
Worries about Argentina’s ability to meet its dollar-denominated debt obligations have increased since the peso got trounced by political uncertainty after an Aug. 11 primary election. The peso has lost 20.96% of its value against the U.S. dollar since Aug. 12.
The central bank issued a press release saying it would limit financing in pesos for major exporters, a move aimed at strengthening the local currency by encouraging companies to sell dollars in order to obtain pesos needed to fund operations.
“Unfortunately, this measure is late. The run on the peso has already begun,” tweeted Matias Rajnerman, an economist at consulting firm Ecolatina in Buenos Aires.
Country risk <11EMJ> rose 151 basis points to 2,140, its highest level in 14 years, according to the JP Morgan Emerging Markets Bond Index Plus.
(GRAPHIC: Argentina country risk – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/editorcharts/ARGENTINA-ECONOMY/0H001QESL83R/eikon.png)
Argentina’s central bank sold $50 million of its reserves in its first dollar auction of the day at an average 58.833 pesos per dollar, as part of its effort to control the peso’s fall.
Minutes later the bank sold $65 million more of its reserves at an average 58.7269 pesos per dollar, traders said. The bank quickly followed up with a third auction, selling $55 million at an average 58.2354. In its fourth intervention of the day, the bank sold $21 million at an average 57.2346 pesos per dollar.
On Tuesday, the bank exceeded for the first time a guideline on reserve sales agreed as part of its $57 billion standby deal with the International Monetary Fund, selling $302 million in the foreign exchange market.
The agreement with the IMF limits Argentina’s central bank to $250 million in reserve sales daily, set when the exchange rate was above 51.5 pesos per dollar, with the option to intervene further to “counteract episodes of excessive volatility.”
(Reporting by Walter Bianchi, Jorge Otaola, Hernan Nessi, Cassandra Garisson and Gabriel Burin in Buenos Aires; Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Alistair Bell and Matthew Lewis)