BUENOS AIRES, March 1 (Reuters) - Argentina’s central bank raised interest rates on its short-term Lebac securities by about 3 percentage points on average in its weekly auction on Tuesday in a bid to shore up the local currency which is plumbing new record lows.
The central bank said it sold 34.564 billion pesos ($2.188 billion) in peso-denominated Lebac securities, which typically range from three-months to one-year in maturity, slightly less than last week despite the raise in rates.
Argentina’s new government floated the peso days after taking power last December, vowing not to intervene in the currency market unless there was excessive volatility in contrast to the previous administration which had propped up the peso with central bank reserves.
Given Argentina remains shut out of global capital markets, exports are virtually its only source of dollars. At the moment though, there is more demand for greenbacks than there is supply, resulting in pressure on the peso.
The central bank intervened for the sixth working day in a row in the foreign exchange market on Tuesday, selling $240 million in order to stabilize the peso at 15.80 per dollar, after it hit a record low of 16 per dollar during the day.
The peso has weakened by 37.8 percent since President Mauricio Macri, a free-markets believer, took office.
Macri has said he is confident Argentina will be able to resolve its long-running litigation with bondholders within the next couple of weeks, easing its path back toward global capital markets.
Beyond shoring up the peso, Argentina’s central bank has also been using its weekly debt sales to mop up liquidity in order to bring down annual inflation of around 30 percent.
Former President Cristina Fernandez ran up a large fiscal deficit that she financed in part by printing more money, increasing the money supply. ($1=15.80 Argentine pesos ) (Reporting by Walter Bianchi and Sarah Marsh; Editing by Matthew Lewis)