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ECONOMY | 15-08-2019 18:34

Central Bank revamps strategy to defend peso

Rule change on foreign currency holdings in the financial system should allow it to spare foreign reserves when defending the peso.

Argentina’s Central Bank has changed rules on foreign currency holdings in the financial system, allowing it to spare foreign reserves when defending the peso.

The regulation published Thursday on the Central Bank’s website effectively forces some banks to sell dollars, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. The move allows the Central Bank, which has sold US$503 million this week in the spot market, to avoid burning even more reserves to shore up the currency.

The peso plunged 25 percent during a three-day sell-off that followed the Sunday defeat of President Mauricio Macri to Alberto Fernández in a key primary election.

Following the publication of the rule, the Central Bank did not sell any dollars in the spot market Thursday. The Treasury sold US$44 million, below the usual amount of US$60 million it offers in daily auctions. The peso strengthened 5.5 percent on Thursday, its first day of gains this week.

The Central Bank established a ceiling for foreign currency holdings, in both spot and futures market, equivalent to five percent of banks’ net worth in the previous month, locally known as RPC. Before, financial institutions had a global five-percent ceiling for all of their foreign exchange positions, which meant they could hold more dollars if they made up for that by selling foreign currency in the futures market.

That change means some banks will need to sell dollars to comply, said the person. The Central Bank didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Fernandez, who had long criticised the government for artificially supporting the currency, on Thursday said the peso had reached “fair value” after closing at 60 per dollar the prior day. He added that he asked Macri during a phone call Wednesday to preserve the Central Bank’s reserves.

by Ignacio Olivera Doll, Bloomberg

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