Argentina's Macri Says Market Will Define Peso Exchange Rate

  • Level of central bank forex reserves is not known, Macri says
  • Opposition candidate is leading polls ahead of Nov 22 runoff

Argentine presidential candidate Mauricio Macri, who is leading opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 22 runoff, said the market will determine the exchange rate for the peso if he’s elected and follows through on plans to let the currency float.

Macri, a two-time mayor of Buenos Aires city, told foreign correspondents in Buenos Aires Tuesday that no one knows how much cash is left in central bank reserves as the gross figures published on a daily basis by the monetary authority have fallen to a nine-year low.

Since Macri’s better-than-expected performance in the first round Oct. 25, Argentina’s unregulated exchange rates have converged on the expectations that a free floating currency would be close to those levels. The peso in the black market traded Tuesday at 14.57 per dollar while the so-called blue-chip swap used in financial transactions is at 14.26 per dollar. The official rate, controlled by the central bank through a crawling peg is at 9.6 per dollar.

“How much will the dollar be worth? If I knew that I’d be up for the Nobel prize,” Macri said when asked what the exchange rate would be on Dec. 10 if he were to remove currency restrictions immediately.

If the currency controls are lifted from day one, restrictions on individual U.S. dollar purchases and imports would be freed, but dividend repatriation for companies and releasing dollars that the current government owes to importers would have to be addressed more gradually, Macri’s campaign manager Marcos Pena said afterward.

“There are 10 or 11 currency controls,” Pena said. ‘What we’ll focus on immediately is what affects the consumer, the resident. What’s from the past when we arrive we’ll have to see about the timing on those.”

Macri said he hasn’t had any contact with a group of holdouts won a ruling in a New York court that led to Argentina defaulting on its debt for the second time in 13 years. his government would negotiate fiercely to attain the best outcome for Argentina in all outstanding conflicts that it inherits, Macri said.

“In order to reconnect with the world, we need to close all these conflicts,” he said.

The 56-year-old former president of Boca Juniors soccer club said he’s in favor of maintaining relations with Russia and China while calling for more transparency. Macri also said that Brazil, the country’s largest trading partner, would find it “easier” to work with him than with the current administration of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

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