Argentina hikes interest rate 300 basis points after inflation passes 100%

Government fears “flight of more pesos to the dollar”: sources

Argentina’s central bank board said it agreed to hike the country’s benchmark interest rate by 300 basis points to 78% on Thursday after annual inflation hit 100% for the first time in over three decades.

The decision came after 12-month inflation reached 102.5% in February, the first time it has hit triple figures since a period of hyperinflation in 1991. Prices rose 6.6% in the month, ahead of forecasts.

The sharp hike is the first since September, when the bank raised the 28-day Leliq rate by 550 basis points to 75%, the last in a vicious tightening cycle all through 2022. It had wanted to cut rates this year on hopes inflation would cool.

However, inflation has accelerated again despite government attempts to cap retail prices, pushed up in part by a devastating drought that is hammering grains and meat supply.

On Wednesday, it was reported that the bank had put the possibility of a rate hike back on the table after hoping to hold it steady, due to the stubbornly high inflation and fears of contagion from the global banking crisis.

“The government understands the complexities of raising the rate, but the fear lies in the flight of more pesos to the dollar and that is why it won the vote to increase,” said one of the sources, a central bank adviser, asking not to be named.

“However, the decision was well discussed.”

The global banking sector has faced jitters after Silicon Valley Bank’s sudden collapse in the United States last week and with Swiss regulators throwing a liquidity lifeline to Credit Suisse amid a crisis of confidence in the lender.



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