Ecuador

Ecuador has acknowledged it will fail to make coupon payments on three bonds due later this week but insists it will pay up within the 30-day grace period, as it scrambles for cash amid the Covid-19 outbreak and the crash in oil prices, the Financial Times reported. In an online press conference on Monday night, finance minister Richard Martínez said the government would make a $325m payment due on Tuesday on its 2020 bond, but needed more time to come up with $200m to service bonds due in 2022, 2025 and 2030. Coupon payments had been due this Friday and Saturday.

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Ecuador’s Congress called on the government to suspend debt payments to free up cash to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, prompting JPMorgan Chase & Co. to warn of a potential default as soon as Tuesday, Bloomberg News reported. The South American nation’s $3 billion of bonds due in 2028 fell 3.5 cents to a record low 31 cents on the dollar, pushing yields to 33%. Ecuador has about $320 million of debt due tomorrow and coupon payments later this week.

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Ecuador’s dollar bonds slumped the most in emerging markets as investors price in a higher probability of default following the crash in crude prices, Bloomberg News reported. The nation’s dollar bonds due 2028 fell 10.6 cents to 47.6 cents on the dollar on Monday, sending the yield surging 4.3 percentage points to 22.3%. The extra yield investors demand to hold Ecuadorian debt over U.S. Treasuries blew out 753 basis points to 27.33 percentage points. That compares to 28.16 percentage points for Argentina which is preparing to restructure its debt.

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Ecuador is preparing to sell $400 million in bonds backed by the Inter-American Development Bank to fund the country’s housing program, according to a person with direct knowledge of the transaction, Bloomberg News reported. The so-called “social bond” will be offered to investors this week, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. The IADB would pay bondholders $300 million in the event of a default, the person added.

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Two weeks of protests and clashes, in which seven people were killed and 2,500 injured or arrested in the centre of Quito, have forced Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno to rip up his economic reform plans, leaving him in a weaker position than ever before, the Financial Times reported. Faced with the demands of a $4.2bn IMF programme, the Ecuadorean leader needs to either cut government spending or raise revenue. His plan to abolish fuel subsidies, which triggered the mass protests, would have saved the state $1.3bn a year, or 1.2 per cent of gross domestic product.

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Are investors becoming too ebullient on emerging markets once more? The warm welcome recently extended by the bond market to Ecuador — a serial defaulter — seems a good example of the triumph of hope over experience. The Latin American country has defaulted on its debt with such regularity that it repaid a bond fully and on time for the first time in its history only in 2015, the Financial Times reported.

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Ecuador’s benchmark bonds soared to a six-month high after President Lenin Moreno’s government secured a $4.2 billion loan package from the International Monetary Fund, Bloomberg News reported. The aid is intended to support the OPEC nation over the next three years as it tries to curb spending and revive sluggish growth. Including the IMF package, Ecuador is set to receive more than $10 billion in loans from multilateral lenders, Moreno said Wednesday in a televised address to the nation. “Thanks to the firm decisions I have made, we are not what today is Venezuela,” Moreno said.

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Prayers for a sudden return to dovish monetary policies have been answered, and now investors are living with the aftermath: a world awash with $8.6 trillion in negative-yielding debt, Bloomberg News reported. That’s one reason money managers are wading once more into the fringes of fixed-income markets across the globe. Consider the action over the past week: Serial defaulter Ecuador managed to sell $1 billion in new bonds even as the government is in talks for International Monetary Fund financing.

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Ecuador’s fiscal discipline is making investors forget about its history of defaults, according to Finance Minister Richard Martinez. The 38-year-old economy chief said his emphasis on budget cuts, transparency and communication since taking office in May is luring foreign fund managers to the nation with the dubious distinction of having the second-most defaults in the world since 1800, Bloomberg News reported. Ecuador’s yield spread over U.S. Treasuries has fallen to 620 basis points, briefly dropping below Argentina for the first time since 2015.
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Ecuador's comptroller's office on Monday announced it will open an audit of debt contracted in the last five years of the government of former President Rafael Correa to determine the legality of the operations and the use of the funds. The move follows a report by the comptroller's office revealing that some documentation relating to debt operations had been declared secret and that official reports on public debt had excluded some of the operations, the International New York Times reported on a Reuters story.
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