CARACAS, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Venezuelan bonds tumbled to new lows on Monday after President Nicolas Maduro said he is in “no hurry” to raise the price of gasoline, which is the cheapest in the world thanks to a huge subsidy that drains the OPEC nation’s coffers.
Investors are growing worried that Venezuela could default on its foreign debt due to capital flight caused by its currency control system and a tumble in crude prices that has cut into its hard currency holdings.
The country’s benchmark Global 2027 bond fell 5.13 percent to $37.63 to yield 26.46 percent. State oil company PDVSA’s 2017 bond lost 7.69 percent to $43.00 to yield 72.45 percent.
Venezuelan bonds on average yield 30.18 percentage points more than comparable U.S. Treasuries, according to JPMorgan’s Emerging Market Bond Index. They have lost 43.75 percent of their value this year, compared to a drop of 43.20 percent in 2008, during the financial crisis, according to the same index.
Maduro has vowed to pay the country’s debt and insists Venezuela has the resources to do so, but investors have at times been spooked by his comments on the issue.
In an interview on Sunday he played down the possibility of hiking gasoline prices. The country’s gasoline subsidies cost an estimated $12 billion each year and the program is seen as one of the principal reforms needed to shore up tumbling foreign reserves.
Based on the black market exchange rate, 5 gallons (19 liters) of gas sell for about $0.01.
In a speech on Saturday, Maduro again ruled out a debt default, but couched the statement in ambiguous comments about how the country would only default as part of a broader strategy.
“There is no possibility of a declaration of default, unless we decide not to pay anymore as part of an economic strategy of development,” Maduro said.
“But that’s not the strategy we’ve built in these years ... with the economic thought of Hugo Chavez,” said Maduro, referring to the late socialist leader. (Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Paul Simao)