Argentina’s Central Bank Raises Rate Floor to 78% as Prices Soar

Argentina’s Central Bank Raises Rate Floor to 78% as Prices Soar

* Rate floor to fall to 68% during October, bank says Wednesday * New monetary base targets 2.5% growth in Sept. and Oct.

Argentina’s central bank raised a floor on its benchmark interest rate to 78% from 58% for the rest of September as the government fights a resurgence in inflation triggered by political uncertainty.

The rate floor will lower to 68% for all of October, while central bank officials project that Argentina’s monetary base will grow at a monthly rate of 2.5% in September and October, the bank said in a statement Wednesday, adding that the expansion of the monetary base will be adjusted by interventions in the currency market. Argentina’s record $56 billion credit line with the International Monetary Fund stipulates zero monetary base growth.

“The monetary policy committee considers these measures will allow for real positive interest rates to be sustained and to restart the disinflation process starting in October,” the central bank, led by President Guido Sandleris, said.

Argentina has had the world’s highest interest rates for over a year as it battles runaway inflation amid a currency crisis. The current benchmark rate, which is set every day through short-term debt auctions, finished Wednesday at 83%.

It’s the latest of several changes to monetary policy this year as annual inflation remains stubbornly above 50%. Prices were cooling in recent months, until market-friendly President Mauricio Macri lost by a bigger-than-expected margin to opposition candidate Alberto Fernandez in an Aug. 11 primary election. Fears that Fernandez will reverse Macri’s pro-market stance in case he wins the Oct. 27 presidential election triggered a peso selloff, which sparked a surge in inflation.

The continuation of the IMF agreement, the largest ever approved by the Washington organization, is in doubt amid policy uncertainty and investor fears that Argentina will default on its debt. In a separate statement Wednesday, an IMF spokesman acknowledged the latest change to central bank policy, noting Economy Minister Hernan Lacunza’s upcoming visit to Washington.

“IMF Staff remain engaged with Argentina and continue to work with the authorities to address the challenging situation that Argentina faces,” the spokesman said in the statement.