South America

Argentina’s currency crisis deepened on Thursday as an emergency interest-rate increase to 60 percent failed to stop jittery investors from pulling their money out of the country, Bloomberg News reported. The peso extended losses after the bank raised its benchmark measure by 15 percentage points to a global high. The hike, the second this month, was the latest attempt by policy makers to defend a currency that’s lost more than half its value this year.
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The International Monetary Fund said it was studying a request from Argentina to speed up disbursement of a $50 billion loan program after a collapse in investor confidence in President Mauricio Macri's government sent the peso tumbling more than 7 percent on Wednesday, the International New York Times reported on a Reuters story. It was the biggest one-day decline in the peso since the currency was allowed to float in December 2015. It closed at a record low of 34.10 per U.S.
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Mauricio Macri’s presidency was meant to lead Argentina out of a dismal period of debt defaults, currency controls and recession, Bloomberg News reported. Markets show investors are losing faith in the new dawn for South America’s second-largest economy. Argentina’s yield spread over Treasuries -- the extra cost it pays to borrow in the bond market compared with the U.S. -- has climbed this month to the highest since December 2014. The spread surpassed Ecuador’s, which has the dubious distinction of having the second-most defaults in the world since 1800, for the first time since May 2015.
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A former Swiss banker has pleaded guilty in Miami federal court to helping launder $1.2 billion of money embezzled from Venezuela’s bankrupt state oil company in a scheme that involved close relatives of a Venezuelan official, The Wall Street Journal reported. People familiar with the case say that official is President Nicolás Maduro. Matthias Krull, a 44-years-old Panama-based former Swiss bank executive, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering on Wednesday, the Justice Department said. As part of his plea, Mr.
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Argentine police raided two homes of ex-President Cristina Kirchner, in the latest graft probe involving a former Latin American president as a sweeping anticorruption movement takes hold in the region, The Wall Street Journal reported. The search on Thursday of Mrs. Kirchner’s Buenos Aires apartment and a home in the southern Patagonia region came a day after the Senate partially lifted her immunity from prosecution as a sitting senator, deepening an investigation that prosecutors say is laying bare a widespread corruption scheme during her administration.
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Smurfit Kappa has defended itself after the Venezuelan government took temporary control of the Irish cardboard boxmaker’s subsidiary in the South American country, which is in economic freefall and recording hyperinflation, The Irish Times reported. Local reports have said that the government seized Smurfit Kappa Carton de Venezuela for three months, amid complaints about prices that the company is charging for packaging products in an alleged abuse of its dominant market position.
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Venezuela’s epic 95 percent currency devaluation was in part an attempt, it appeared, to squash the black market where most people have bought and sold dollars for years, Bloomberg News reported. Those illusions were dashed quickly, though. Within hours of the financial system re-opening this week, black market quotes for the bolivar were already flying around. Some quoted it at 65 bolivars per dollar. Others had it as high as 100 bolivars -- well above the new, official exchange rate of 60 per dollar that President Nicolas Maduro set Friday night.
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Argentina’s economic woes may spell the end of traditional mergers and acquisitions this year, while paving the way for some companies to snap up battered assets, according to Lazard Ltd.’s Matias Eliaschev. “Currency volatility, increased country-risk spreads and general turmoil in emerging markets will make closing transactions more challenging,” Lazard’s chief executive officer for Latin America, excluding Mexico and Brazil, said in an interview, Bloomberg News reported.
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Hundreds of Venezuelans, some of whom walked 900 miles to escape economic disaster back home, saw their journeys abruptly halted this weekend on a frigid, remote border with Ecuador, The Wall Street Journal reported. Like other Latin American countries hosting thousands of fleeing Venezuelans, Ecuador suddenly erected a new entry barrier on Saturday requiring in this case passports rather than the national I.D. cards they accepted before.
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Turkey’s market mayhem came as no surprise to many emerging-market veterans. What investors may be underestimating, though, is the contagion risk for Brazil, according to Carmen Reinhart, the Cuban-born economist whose warning in May of perils to come proved prescient, Bloomberg News reported. "Do I think Turkey will turn into a major contagion episode? I think a key answer is what happens in Brazil," the Harvard professor said in an interview, citing high liquidity, political uncertainty and a debt-to-GDP ratio not seen in two centuries.
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