By Hugh Bronstein
BUENOS AIRES, March 17 Argentina's inflation
rate slowed to 3.4 percent in February, the government said on
Monday, the second monthly reading of a new consumer price index
that came in far under expectations and left analysts with
continued doubts about accuracy.
A month ago, the government reported 3.7 percent inflation
for January. That was the first reading under a new measuring
system meant to improve long-discredited official data in
Argentina, Latin America's No. 3 economy.
Market watchers had expected a February inflation rate of
4.2 percent, according to a recent Reuters poll of analysts.
"Reported inflation shows that the policy stance to improve
credibility remains only halfhearted," said Siobhan Morden, New
York-based head of Latin American strategy at Jefferies LLC.
"There still seems to be a reluctance to recognize true
inflation, especially against near-term wage negotiations," she
The Argentine government drew up the new index after being
censured by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for
low-balling consumer prices data.
President Cristina Fernandez's administration had been
criticized by investors as well as the IMF for publishing
inaccurate data. Business leaders accused her government of
manipulating figures since early 2007 in an apparent bid to
reduce the country's payments on its inflation-indexed debt.
With private economists expecting full-year inflation of
over 30 percent, one of the highest rates in the world and a
major disincentive to investment, business and labor unions are
preparing for tough upcoming wage negotiations.
Of particular concern to agricultural markets are strike
threats by port workers who control the flow of farm goods from
Argentina, the world's top soyoil and soymeal exporter as well
as its No. 3 supplier of soybeans and corn.