September 7, 2018 / 2:34 PM / in 17 days

Argentina central bank chief says financing assured in 2019, peso rises

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina’s central bank governor, Luis Caputo, said on Friday that government financing for 2019 was more than sufficient and that high yields on the country’s sovereign debt were “exaggerated,” prompting the peso currency to reverse earlier declines.

Central Bank President Luis Caputo speaks during a news conference at the G20 Meeting of Finance Ministers in Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 22, 2018. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

The peso currency opened down 0.93 percent at 37.80 per U.S. dollar, following two straight days of gains as authorities negotiated changes to a $50 billion loan program with the International Monetary Fund, but turned positive after Caputo’s comments to trade up 0.94 percent at 37.10.

The peso plunged 16 percent last week after President Mauricio Macri announced that the country would seek early disbursements from the stand-by deal to assuage concerns about sustainability of its debt.

“There is no doubt that there is an over-exaggeration. This is going to correct itself quicker than markets believe,” Caputo said at a conference of finance executives. “Financing will be more than sufficient for 2019,” he said, but did not give details about the sources of financing.

Markets have shown optimism in Argentina after the IMF said on Thursday it aimed to wrap up ongoing talks in Washington to strengthen the Argentina deal as soon as possible. Macri earlier this week announced austerity measures to balance the budget next year.

That comes as a risk to Macri in a country where many blame IMF-imposed austerity for exacerbating a 2001-02 economic crisis that plunged millions into poverty. Analysts expect the economy to contract 1.9 percent this year, with inflation topping 40 percent.

Last month, the central bank hiked its interest rate to 60 percent to try to halt the run on the peso and calm inflation, a move that could hurt economic activity. High rates are a factor behind what construction executives expect to be massive layoffs in the coming months.

Caputo described the current rate as a “crisis rate” and said it was “not viable” in the medium or long term.

Argentine bonds also rose after his comments, with over-the-counter bonds up 0.6 percent on average and country risk- a measure of how much higher Argentine bond yields are compared to less risky alternatives - down 18 basis points at 710 basis points.

While the swift peso depreciation makes Argentina’s dollar debts harder to pay, most economists say default risk is low.

Economist Mauro Roca said he expected country risk would continue to decline and “the valuation of risks was and is exaggerated.”

Reporting by Jorge Otaola and Luc Cohen; Editing by Frances Kerry and Phil Berlowitz

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