argentina eases public\s access to dollars
Last Updated : GMT 22:38:38
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Argentina eases public\'s access to dollars

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Argentina eases public\'s access to dollars

Buenos Aires - AFP

Argentina's peso held stable Monday after last week's sharp devaluation as the public began to take advantage of looser exchange controls, amid concerns over stability in several emerging economies. Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner blamed speculators for the fall, which forced her government to ease unpopular controls on buying dollars, in place since 2011, after they proved ineffective in stifling capital flight. From Monday, Argentinians could swap pesos for $2,000 in a hard currency such as US dollars each month at the official rate but large businesses and investors will remain barred from the hard currency purchases, said Jorge Capitanich, head of Kirchner's cabinet. Permission will be restricted to "salaried workers, professionals, self-employed workers and small business owners," who earn more than $900 (7,200 pesos) a month, and the amount permitted will be tied to the person's earnings. Sales are also limited to 20 percent of earnings, according to AFIP, the national tax agency, which must approve the transactions. The exchange market remained relatively calm after the peso plunged 14 percent in panic-selling on Wednesday and Thursday. Other currencies from major emerging economies have dipped sharply in recent days, as the end of extraordinary measures such as the US Fed's stimulus program looms. South Africa's rand hit a five year low on Monday, Brazil's real hit a five month low and Turkey's central bank called a crisis meeting after its heavy intervention failed to halt a run on the lira. Argentina's official dollar rate held at 8.01 to the dollar Monday, level with where it stood Friday, amid reported support by the Central Bank of Argentina. But in a sign of some remaining downward pressure on the currency, the peso fell to 12.2 to the dollar on the black market, compared to 11.7 pesos per dollar on Friday, according to the financial newspaper Ambito.com. Meanwhile, after sinking last week, the Buenos Aires stock exchange rebounded for a 1.1 percent gain on Monday. But the fallout of Argentina's problems and a general global monetary tightening continued to hit other emerging markets Monday, most notably neighbor Brazil. Kirchner, in her first comments on the turmoil, lashed out at unnamed speculators for forcing the currency down. In tweets from Havana, where she met with Fidel Castro and other Latin American leaders, she accused banks of complicity: "Only through them is it possible to undertake such speculative maneuvers in the markets. "With the complicity, of course, of business groups, exporters and importers, among others." The market and public were nevertheless on watch to see if the new exchange regime would work, and whether the government would follow it up with more policy revisions. The government reversed itself on one move announced last week: that the 35 percent surcharge on credit card purchases abroad and dollar purchases for foreign travel would remain in place. Earlier the government said it would be cut to 20 percent. Defending the peso has cost the central bank dearly over the past three years. The country's foreign reserves fell to $29.5 billion earlier this month from $52 billion in 2011 The figure could now be lower if the central bank propped up the peso in market interventions on Friday and Monday. "The government opened a window. It is a big and risky bet. Reserves are still strong. But if reserves don't increase, it will have to take more restrictive measures," said Dante Sica, an analyst with Abeceb.com consulting. Economist Rodrigo Alvarez said it was unlikely that the easier access to hard currency will lead to an end in black market trading. "We will continue to have parallel markets," he said. "Everything depends on what happens once the spigot of dollars is opened, and that's barely begun," he said. On Florida Street in Buenos Aires, home of the foreign currency black market, one exchange house manager said that demand for dollars remained strong. Even if the peso stabilizes, the government needs to get inflation, running at around 26 percent a year, under control to stop Argentinians from converting all their savings into dollars. Many remain traumatized by the economic collapse of 2001, which wiped out the savings of millions as the fixed peso-dollar rate was dissolved and the local currency plunged in value. But at least for the short term, the devaluation could exacerbate price rises by raising the cost of imported goods like fuels, and it could also stall economic growth.

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