Venezuela cancels U.S. dollar auction over 'anomalies'

CARACAS Tue Feb 4, 2014 8:51pm EST

CARACAS Feb 4 (Reuters) - Venezuela's central bank said on Tuesday it had canceled this week's auction of $220 million in U.S. currency after discovering anomalies among requests filed by private companies wanting to take part.

The bank holds weekly U.S. dollar sales under its Sicad system. This week's auction would have been the second since 11-year-old currency controls were revamped on Jan. 22.

The bank did not disclose what irregularities had taken place, but said in a statement it canceled the auction due to "a combination of anomalies and lack of compliance with the rules."

The Sicad auctions typically target specific sectors of the economy. This week's sale had been offered to local companies in the raw materials and pharmaceutical industries.

The reform of Venezuela's currency controls last month kept a preferential rate of 6.3 bolivars to the dollar for essential goods such as food and medicine, and doubled the number of dollars offered at Sicad's higher rate of about 11.3 bolivars.

Critics predict the measures will simply spur inflation, which hit 56.2 percent last year, the highest in the Americas.

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