UPDATE 7-Argentina lifts currency controls, floats peso in bid to boost economy

miércoles 16 de diciembre de 2015 22:29 GYT

(Adds confirmation of currency swap by central bank)

By Maximilian Heath and Hugh Bronstein

BUENOS AIRES Dec 16 (Reuters) - Argentina said on Wednesday it was lifting its currency controls and would allow the peso to float when markets open, setting the stage for a sharp devaluation, following vows by new President Mauricio Macri for reforms to spur economic growth.

Macri, a free-markets advocate who took office last week, wants to boost exports and regain investor trust in Latin America's third largest economy, damaged by heavy state intervention and a lack of trustworthy official data.

Argentina's previous leader, Peronist Cristina Fernandez, used central bank reserves to prop up the peso while restricting access to the artificially inflated rate, spawning a currency black market.

"He who wants to import will be able to do so, and he who wants to buy dollars will be able to buy them," Finance Minister Alfonso Prat-Gay said.

Farmers in Argentina, a grains-exporting powerhouse, have been waiting for the peso to weaken before selling stockpiles of soybeans. Manufacturers have argued for controls to be lifted so they can import crucial parts for production.

Local and foreign investors, meanwhile, might be inspired to bring money back to the country if Macri's reforms succeed in reducing imbalances in the economy in the long-run.

Asked what he expected the exchange rate to be when markets open, Prat-Gay said there was "no magic number."   Continuación...