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On 14 August 2023, the Argentine government took the bold step of hiking interest rates and decreasing the value of its currency. This intervention came a day after the country’s primary elections, adding a layer of uncertainty and volatility to Argentina’s economic landscape.
After far-right and anti-establishment candidate Javier Milei obtained the most votes, the results sparked a sell-off of the Argentine peso, shares, and bonds. Anticipating a market backlash, the Banco Central de la Republica Argentina (BCRA) devalued its currency by 20% (to AR$350 per dollar) to reassure jittery investors. The Buenos Aires Timesreports that the devaluation was the largest in a single day since December 2015. The BCRA said the move would help cushion “exchange rate expectations and minimize the repercussion on prices.”
The BCRA added that the peso would be held at AR$350 per dollar until the general elections in October. But many news outlets and think tanks say the devaluation leaves the official exchange rate far from the parallel market rate, which is AR$690 per dollar.
Reuters cites that the financial markets had been betting on a solid performance by a more moderate political candidate. Bloomberg reports that Milei, a representative and economist, supports dollarizing the economy. Riding on a wave of popular discontent, Milei has also called to liberalize the economy, vowed to abolish the central bank, and advocated for sharp spending cuts.
“Investors like Milei’s economic message but fear the execution and institutional risk, considering his lack of power and aggressive style,” a chief Argentina strategist at a financial services company told Bloomberg. “Milei represents uncertainty,” a fixed-income strategist at an investment management firm shared.
With negative international reserves, inflation at over 120%, poverty at 40%, and tight capital controls among its many economic woes, Argentina faces fresh uncertainty ahead of the October elections.
Argentines feel the impact
The recent drop in the peso’s value has affected ordinary Argentines, worsening already high inflation and making everyday life more challenging. The prices of essentials have skyrocketed, putting a strain on household budgets. In fact, consumer goods companies have increased their prices by nearly 10%, further stretching purchasing power.
To make matters worse, supermarkets have confirmed that the supply of goods has been disrupted, making it harder for people to find and afford the necessities they rely on.
Additionally, the devaluation of the peso is expected to have a ripple effect on gas prices, as oil companies expect their costs to rise. This means that Argentines will also face higher prices for transportation and utilities.
Due to economic hardship, the savings of many Argentines have further eroded. The cost of living has reached crisis levels, making it increasingly difficult for people to meet their basic needs. There are concerns that, if the situation worsens, the country could face hyperinflation.
What our Market Monitor says
Our Market Monitor report offers a sobering analysis:
1 January to 1 June 2023. During the first half of the year, Argentina alternated between Levels Two and Three (out of six levels of volatility), with an average exchange rate movement of 39.9%. Level Two shows dynamic market conditions and an exchange rate movement of over 20% in the past six months. On the other hand, Level Three shows rapidly evolving market conditions and an exchange rate movement of over 40% in the past six months.
15 June to 15 August 2023. From 15 June to 15 August, Argentina climbed to Level Three with an average exchange rate movement of 44.8%.
1 September onwards. Beginning on 1 September, Argentina’s level of volatility rose to Level Four. This level of volatility reflects a sudden, unexpected social or economic event (i.e., the peso devaluation, among other factors) or a currency devaluation of at least 50% in six months. In the case of Argentina, the exchange rate moved by 74.4%.
Our latest salary surveys report that many organizations still denominate salaries in Argentine pesos, keeping the South American country at Level Four.
How Birches Group can help
Argentina’s peso crisis underlines the importance of developing a Special Measures Policy in response to economic instability. Such policies can help protect your organization and employees from economic shocks.
If your organization grapples with the effects of market volatility and needs help formulating a clear Special Measures Policy, our consultants are here to assist you. With their extensive experience and in-depth understanding of emerging labor markets like Argentina, they can provide you with the tools and advice you need to navigate these uncertain times.
- 1 January 2023 to 15 September 2023 Birches Group Market Monitor Reports