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ECONOMY | 09-10-2023 21:04

Argentina's Central Bank likely to hold rate despite inflation spike

Argentina’s Central Bank board plans to keep its benchmark interest rate unchanged despite inflation data hovering around a three-decade high.

Argentina’s Central Bank board plans to keep its benchmark interest rate unchanged Thursday despite inflation data hovering around a three-decade high, two officials with direct knowledge of the matter said.

The bank’s monetary policy committee will likely keep the Leliq rate at 118 percent at its weekly meeting because officials believe price pressures are showing signs of cooling in the past weeks, according to the people, who asked not to be named to discuss upcoming policy decisions. 

A spokesperson for the BCRA, as the Central Bank is known, didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

Argentina’s monthly inflation averaged 12 percent over the past two months, the Central Bank said in a report published Monday, before the official release from the INDEC national statistics bureau  on Thursday. That’s slightly above the 11.3 percent monthly inflation expected for September by an average of six economists surveyed by Bloomberg, which puts annual price gains at 135 percent, the highest since the country was exiting hyperinflation in early 1990s. 

BCRA has refrained from boosting borrowing costs further after lifting them by 21 percentage points in mid-August, when the government ordered a sharp devaluation of the official exchange rate. Heightened volatility linked to Argentina’s upcoming presidential election on October 22, coupled with a historic drought that cost the economy US$20 billion of exports, has sent prices soaring and activity down as a recession looms.

Outsider candidate Javier Milei, who’s the frontrunner in the election after winning a primary in August, is openly pushing Argentines to get rid of their pesos as he advocates to dollarise the economy if elected. 

Despite the Central Bank tightening monetary policy, the pressure on the Argentine currency continues as the black market exchange rate weakened to a record low of 945 pesos per dollar Monday and the gap between the official rate and informal rates reached 170 percent. Many private economists see another currency devaluation on the official rate, which the government controls, sometime after the election as all but inevitable as the exchange rate gap balloons.

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by Ignacio Olivera Doll & Manuela Tobias, Bloomberg

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