Argentina's Moreno sees peso at 6 per dollar -newspaper

BUENOS AIRES Tue Jan 22, 2013 8:50am EST

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BUENOS AIRES Jan 22 (Reuters) - Argentina's official exchange rate could weaken by about one peso to 6 pesos per U.S. dollar by the end of the year, Domestic Commerce Secretary Guillermo Moreno told Pagina 12 newspaper.

The central bank intervenes daily on the local foreign exchange market to control the peso's value. In recent years the pace of the currency's depreciation has lagged far behind annual inflation, estimated privately at around 25 percent.

"It would not be crazy to think it could devalue by 18 to 20 percent and end 2013 close to six pesos," Moreno said in an interview published on Tuesday by Pagina 12, a daily newspaper with close ties to the government.

Pagina 12 interviewed Moreno while he was on a trade mission in Vietnam.

The gap between the official exchange rate, which depreciated by 12.5 percent in 2012, and the black market rate exceeded 50 percent last week as Argentines hunted dollars to spend during the Southern Hemisphere's summer vacation season.

The peso was trading at an ask price of 4.96 per dollar early on Tuesday on the official interbank market.

President Cristina Fernandez put tough controls on foreign-currency purchases soon after she won re-election in October 2011, and the measures have been tightened since then.

That has forced many Argentines to pay a premium to get dollars on the black market, as measured by Reuters.

The black market peso closed at 7.44 per dollar on Monday, after hitting a record 7.61 during the previous week.

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