(Adds Merval index closing, country risk, central bank sales from Treasury; adds country risk graphic)
By Eliana Raszewski and Jorge Otaola
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Argentina’s central bank on Tuesday exceeded for the first time a guideline on reserve sales agreed as part of its $57 billion standby agreement with the International Monetary Fund, selling $302 million in the foreign exchange market, traders said.
The agreement with the IMF limits Argentina’s central bank to $250 million in reserve sales daily, set when the exchange rate was above 51.5 pesos per dollar, with the option to intervene further to “counteract episodes of excessive volatility.”
The central bank also sold $60 billion from the Treasury on Tuesday.
The peso closed 1.76% weaker at 56.3 per dollar on Tuesday, traders said. Argentina’s local Merval stock index closed 4.48% weaker.
Argentine bonds dipped, with both the century bond and the one maturing in January 2028 trading around 46 cents on the dollar, nearly 2 cents lower on the day, according to MarketAxess data.
The JPMorgan country risk index rose 187 basis points to 2,001, the highest level since October 2008.
Argentina’s central bank has sold more than $1 billion in its own reserves to support the currency against political uncertainty touched off by the left-wing opposition’s resounding victory in a primary vote this month for October’s presidency election.
Other emerging markets currencies fell against the dollar on Tuesday, as concern over the escalation of the China-U.S. trade war drove traders away from riskier assets.
The Colombian peso fell over 1% and Mexico’s peso dropped 0.6%, while the Brazilian real was the only regional currency marginally up against the greenback.
Argentina’s peso lost 18% in value in a week after leftist opposition presidential candidate Alberto Fernandez recorded a 15-point victory in the Aug. 11 primary election, as investors reassessed the prospects of business-friendly President Mauricio Macri retaining power.
Fernandez has pledged to “rework” Argentina’s agreement with the IMF if elected, but has so far declined to share details of a plan.
Macri told an agricultural conference on Tuesday that inflation, which was running at a monthly rate of 2.2% in July, would tick up to slightly over 3%.
“We were going to be at about 1.8% inflation. It’s now going to be 3-something in August,” Macri said.
Argentina’s 12-month inflation is running at 54.4%, according to the national statistics agency. Inflation had been decelerating for a fourth consecutive month in July after reaching a peak of 4.7% in March.
After meeting on Monday with IMF officials, who are visiting Argentina ahead of the next review of its lending program, Fernandez’s leftist coalition issued a strident statement blaming the fund and Macri’s government for the crisis.
The visiting team from the IMF was expected to meet with central bank officials on Tuesday as part of its review of the standby agreement.
The IMF officials, who arrived in Argentina on Saturday, previously met with Treasury Minister Hernan Lacunza, central bank President Guido Sandleris and Alberto Fernandez.
After the fund’s meeting with Fernandez on Monday, his Frente de Todos coalition released a statement blasting the agreement.
“Those who have generated this crisis, the government and the IMF, have the responsibility of putting an end to and reversing it,” the statement said.
A statement from the IMF on Monday night confirmed the meeting with Fernandez and his team and said it was “a productive exchange of opinions.”
Reporting by Jorge Otaola, walter Bianchi and Eliana Raszewski; Additional reporting by Cassandra Garrison, Hugh Bronstein, and Rodrigo Campos in New York; Editing by Daniel Flynn, Tom Brown and Leslie Adler