Argentina's black-market peso slides to near-record low

BUENOS AIRES, April 17 Wed Apr 17, 2013 2:23pm EDT

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BUENOS AIRES, April 17 (Reuters) - Argentina's black market peso slid 2.1 percent to a near-record low on Wednesday afternoon as customers sought a safe haven for their savings, fearing the currency will keep losing value in coming months.

The informal peso, which is measured by Reuters, was trading at 8.67/8.70 per dollar. That brought the difference between the black-market and official exchange rates to 69 percent - a gap that some economists say is not sustainable.

"The market plummeted," a trader said. "Retail business is constant as people look for dollars in cash."

President Cristina Fernandez imposed controls on foreign currency purchases soon after she won re-election in 2011 and they have been tightened considerably since then.

Buying dollars and other foreign currency at the official exchange rate is tightly regulated, forcing many to turn to the black market and pay a high premium over the official rate or pay a credit card levy to withdraw cash overseas.

The government is expected to keep allowing the official peso to lose value in coming months, though at a slow pace.

The official exchange rate on Wednesday was 5.115/5.1575 per dollar. The record low for the informal peso was 8.75 per dollar, set on March 20.

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