Argentina sells $302 million in reserves to support peso, breaking IMF guideline

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina’s central bank on Tuesday exceeded for the first time a guideline on reserve sales agreed as part of its $57 billion standby agreement with the International Monetary Fund, selling $302 million in the foreign exchange market, traders said.

FILE PHOTO: A man shows Argentine pesos outside a bank in Buenos Aires' financial district, Argentina August 30, 2018. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci/File Photo

Argentina’s agreement with the IMF limits the central bank to $250 million in reserve sales daily, set when the exchange rate was above 51.5 pesos per dollar, with the option to intervene further to “counteract episodes of excessive volatility.”

The peso closed 1.76% weaker at 56.3 per dollar on Tuesday, traders said.

Argentina’s central bank has sold more than $1 billion in its own reserves to support the currency against political uncertainty touched off by the left-wing opposition’s resounding victory in a primary vote this month for October’s presidency election.

Other emerging markets .MIEM00000CUS currencies fell against the dollar on Tuesday, as concern over the escalation of the Sino-U.S. trade war drove traders away from riskier assets.

The Colombian peso COP= fell over 1% and Mexico’s peso MXN= dropped 0.6%, while the Brazilian real BRL= was the only regional currency marginally up against the greenback.

Argentina’s peso lost 18% of its value in a week after leftist opposition presidential candidate Alberto Fernandez recorded a 15-point victory in the Aug. 11 primary election, as investors reassessed the prospects of business friendly President Mauricio Macri retaining power.

Fernandez has pledged to “rework” Argentina’s agreement with the IMF if elected, but has so far declined to share details of a plan.

Macri told an agricultural conference on Tuesday inflation - which was running at a monthly rate of 2.2% in July - would tick up to slightly over 3%.

“We were going to be at about 1.8% inflation. It’s now going to be 3-something in August,” Macri said.

Argentina’s 12-month inflation is running at 54.4%, according to the national statistics agency. Inflation had been decelerating for the fourth consecutive month in July after reaching a peak of 4.7% in March.

After meeting on Monday with IMF officials, who are visiting Argentina ahead of the next review of its lending program, Fernandez’s leftist coalition issued a strident statement blaming the Fund and Macri’s government for the crisis.

The visiting team from the IMF was expected to meet with central bank officials on Tuesday as part of its review of the standby agreement.

The IMF officials, who arrived in Argentina on Saturday, previously met with Treasury Minister Hernan Lacunza, central bank president Guido Sandleris and Alberto Fernandez.

After the Fund’s meeting with Fernandez on Monday, his “Frente de Todos” coalition released a statement blasting the agreement.

“Those who have generated this crisis, the government and the IMF, have the responsibility of putting an end to and reversing it,” the statement said.

A statement from the IMF on Monday night confirmed the meeting with Fernandez and his team and said it was “a productive exchange of opinions.”

Reporting by Eliana Raszewski; Additional reporting and writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Alistair Bell, Daniel Flynn and Tom Brown