May 14, 2020 / 6:33 PM / 19 days ago

UPDATE 1-Argentina's black market peso tumbles; gap with official rate hits 100%

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By Walter Bianchi

BUENOS AIRES, May 14 (Reuters) - Argentina’s black market peso on Thursday weakened to 136 per U.S. dollar, double the official exchange rate, as the country grapples with a biting recession and races to restructure its sovereign debt.

The country’s official peso rate, supported by capital controls and central bank interventions in the foreign exchange market, has edged slowly lower this year, while the value of the currency on informal markets has plummeted sharply.

The peso is just shy of 68 per dollar, with tight controls limiting how much Argentines can convert to foreign currency and a steep tax on any exchange. On the black market, however, dollars trade for twice that amount at 136 pesos.

That gap - the widest in years - is raising the risk of a sharp potential depreciation, even as the South American country firefights twin economic and debt crises.

It is being exacerbated by the tough currency controls, low real interest rates and the country opening the monetary supply taps to bolster an economy already in recession for two years, which is now being hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Officially Argentines can only buy a maximum of 200 dollars per month, with a 30% tax on all purchase of foreign currency, which has pushed them towards unofficial markets.

The country’s leaders says they plan to loosen currency controls but only the once the fragile economy has stabilized.

Reporting by Walter Bianchi, writing by Hugh Bronstein and Adam Jourdan Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Steve Orlofsky

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