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Argentina Said to Urge Banks to Lower Rates From 3-Year High

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Nov. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Argentine Economy Minister Amado Boudou and central bank President Mercedes Marco del Pont asked banks to lower rates on loans after the benchmark interest rate on deposits touched a three-year high, according to two people who attended the meeting.

Boudou and Marco del Pont met with representatives of the Argentine Banking Association yesterday after the benchmark rate on 30-day peso deposits of more than one million pesos, known as the badlar, reached 21.25 percent on Nov. 15, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the meeting was private.

The badlar has surged from 12.4 percent three months ago as capital flight in South America’s second-biggest economy accelerates and economists estimate consumer prices are rising at a 24 percent pace. Central bank reserves have fallen to $46 billion this year from a record $52.6 billion in January as Marco del Pont tapped savings to pay debt and steady the peso.

Since winning re-election in a landslide vote on Oct. 23, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has tried to slow the outflow of dollars the past month by ordering energy and mining companies to repatriate export revenue and increasing oversight over the foreign exchange market.

Shares of Banco Patagonia SA extended losses today, falling 0.8 percent to 3.95 pesos while the financial holding company Grupo Financiero Galicia SA, Argentina’s largest consumer lender, fell 1.5 percent to 3.32 pesos, the lowest price since August last year. The benchmark Merval index rose 0.4 percent.

The peso, which has fallen 6.5 percent so far this year, was little changed today at 4.2565 per dollar.

To contact the reporter on this story: Silvia Martinez in Buenos Aires at smartinez19@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net