Argentina Is Running Out of Cash to Stave Off Devaluation

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With inflation hurtling toward triple digits and, economists say, just a policy mistake or two away from setting the stage for hyperinflation, Argentina's central bank is desperately trying to avert a peso devaluation that would only trigger another wave of price hikes, Bloomberg News reported. Each day, the bank dispatches its traders to sell dollars and buy pesos that no one wants. On average, they’re burning through $60 million a day. For now, that’s kept the peso mostly steady in the primary foreign-exchange market. The problem is that their foreign reserves — the hard currency that serves as an emergency stash to protect a country from financial ruin — are now so low that no one can really tell just how much more they can spend. Just last week, the nation hemorrhaged $1.47 billion even as President Alberto Fernandez handed sweeping powers to a newly appointed economy minister to set things right. By some accounts, policy makers have already blown through all the easy-to-spend reserves they had on hand, leaving them scrambling to come up with ways to turn illiquid assets into cash. The central bank’s public data is too opaque to decipher how exactly it’s drawing on the various piles of money that make up its reserves, and officials are mum on the topic. What is known is this: There’s little chance of getting financial help from abroad. Foreign bond investors -- who have already pushed down the price of Argentina’s overseas bonds to about 20 cents on the dollar -- are too scarred by a string of past defaults to lend the country money now. The International Monetary Fund is unlikely to step in this time either. It’s already committed some $44 billion to the country and is showing no interest in pledging more capital. Read more.
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