South America

The Incredible Sinking Argentina

Over the last 70 years, Argentina has endured hyperinflation, government collapse, and the world’s largest sovereign debt default. It’s spent a third of that time in recession, a record that almost deserves its own chapter in economic textbooks, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. And yet even the embattled Buenos Aires stock exchange had never experienced anything like the 48% plunge it took on Aug.

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Argentina’s peso resumed its slide on Wednesday as President Mauricio Macri announced a raft of emergency measures aimed at providing relief to a population suffering from the impact of a sharp devaluation following his stunning defeat in primary elections, the Financial Times reported. The measures, which will cost $740m, included increases in the minimum wage, loans for small and medium-sized businesses, student grants, subsidies for poor families with children and a floor for income tax, as well as a freeze on petrol prices for 90 days.

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Venezuela’s opposition-run congress said on Tuesday it will form a commission that will eventually renegotiate the country’s debt, much of which is in default, and protect the OPEC nation’s offshore assets from seizure by creditors, Reuters reported. President Nicolas Maduro’s government has defaulted on most of roughly $60 billion in foreign bonds issued by Venezuela and state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., or PDVSA, but has had minimal contact with creditors about addressing the situation. The measure follows U.S.

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Argentina’s currency tumbled for a second day as investors remained nervous about the country’s political future and the potential return of populist policies following Mauricio Macri’s decisive loss in a presidential primary vote over the weekend, the Financial Times reported. The peso slid as much as 10 per cent, before paring some of its losses, to end the day at 55.65 pesos to the dollar. Tuesday’s drop comes after the country’s currency shed more than a fifth of its value at one point during hectic trading in the previous session.

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Suddenly, fears of a full-blown financial crisis in Argentina have once again come rushing to the fore, Bloomberg News reported. In the wake of President Mauricio Macri’s stunning rout in primary elections over the weekend, investors dumped its stocks, bonds and currency en masse in a selloff that left much of Wall Street wondering whether the crisis-prone country was headed for yet another default.

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With talks intensifying over Venezuela’s state oil giant potentially missing a payment in late October on the nation’s only bond not currently in default, Ashmore Group Plc has more at stake than anyone else, Bloomberg News reported. The London-based investment firm holds more than 51% of Petroleos de Venezuela’s 2020 notes, followed by BlackRock Inc. and T Rowe Price Group Inc., according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Ashmore boosted its holdings last year as Nicolas Maduro’s government began defaulting on some $11 billion in debt.

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Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht SA has proposed cutting the debt of its ethanol unit Atvos by between 35% to 75%, newspaper Valor Economico reported on Wednesday, Reuters reported. Citing court documents, Valor said Odebrecht proposed a 35% haircut on secured debt and 75% on the unsecured debt of its ethanol unit. Atvos debt subject to restructuring, excluding credits owed to other units of the Odebrecht conglomerate will have a global haircut of 46%, reducing its total financial debt from 10.5 billion reais ($2.65 billion) to 5.7 billion reais, the newspaper said.

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Venezuela’s opposition on Tuesday celebrated a sweeping U.S. sanctions order against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, saying the measure would protect Venezuela-owned U.S.-based refiner Citgo from seizure by creditors, Reuters reported. Three allies of opposition leader Juan Guaido also said the measure allowed for restructuring negotiations with bondholders, which had been prohibited under previous sanctions. That could be key to protecting Citgo, since half of state oil company PDVSA’s shares in the refiner were put up as collateral for its 2020 bond.

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The story of what came to be known as the Barings Crisis of 1890 is studied by economic historians as the biggest sovereign debt meltdown of the century, Bloomberg News reported. But for Argentines, the fallout reverberates outside the pages of textbooks; for the same elements of boom and egregious bust lie at the root of the country’s economic and political upheaval to the present day. Argentina has spent 33% of the time since 1950 in recession, according to a World Bank report released in May.

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Samarco Mineracao SA, the Brazilian mining venture that hasn’t operated since a deadly dam collapse in 2015, is close to regaining a license to restart production and move closer to paying back $3.5 billion in defaulted debt, Bloomberg News reported. The license will most likely be granted within the second half of this year, the Minas Gerais state environmental agency press department said in an email. A Samarco spokeswoman declined to comment. Negotiations with creditors will resume in October following the license renewal, according to a person with direct knowledge of the plans.

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