UPDATE 1-Chile finmin to meet cenbank head to discuss peso's strength

Wed Apr 10, 2013 10:37am EDT

* Peso hit 2011 cenbank intervention levels on Tuesday

* Firm local growth, quantitative easing abroad boosting peso

* Minister's comments prompt peso to extend losses

SANTIAGO, April 10 (Reuters) - Chile's Finance Minister Felipe Larrain said on Wednesday he will meet with the president of the central bank in coming days to discuss the strength of the peso, prompting the local currency to extend its early losses.

"We act in full coordination with the central bank. We're going to meet up soon, between tomorrow and the following day, with the president of the central bank ... (the peso's strength) is without a doubt a situation that concerns us," Larrain told reporters.

Chile's peso reached 465.50 per dollar on Tuesday, a level that had triggered a central bank currency intervention in early 2011 to stem its strength, fueling speculation it could spark another intervention.

"The effect we're seeing on our currency has in large part to do with quantitative easing and the deepening of quantitative easing in developed economies, it's a problem that comes from the United States, Japan and Europe," said Larrain.

Chile's robust economy, an attractive rate differential and healthy prices for its top export, copper, have also contributed to boost the peso. It was one of the strongest performers against the U.S. dollar among 152 currencies tracked by Reuters after appreciating 8.48 percent last year.

The peso has gained nearly 2 percent in 2013.

Beyond measures authorities have already taken to help stave off further peso appreciation, such as reducing fiscal spending and issuing debt locally instead of abroad, "we have other options that are more complex," Larrain said.

"We haven't wanted to go the route of capital controls and the central bank has the option to intervene, but it's a decision its autonomous board must make," he added.

In recent weeks, the bank has said currency market intervention is one of the tools at its disposal, but it has also highlighted the costs associated with using that measure.

The central bank deployed a dollar-purchasing program in 2011, increasing its foreign reserves by $12 billion, to curb peso strength after it appreciated to its highest level in more than 2-1/2 years at 465.50 per dollar.

Some traders believe the trigger point this time for an intervention is around 460 per dollar and that the bank would seek a dollar-purchasing program for around $20.0 billion.

"The market got nervous with what Minister Larrain just said, his meeting with the central bank and possible measures to (contain) the peso ... What kept the peso from slipping further was the positive scenario abroad," said a local trader.

At 11:00 local time (14:00 GMT) the peso was off 0.36 percent to bid 468.60 per dollar.

FILED UNDER: