April 22, 2019 / 4:02 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Argentina posts fiscal deficit in March, Q1 surplus

(Adds economic and policy background)

BUENOS AIRES, April 22 (Reuters) - Argentina ran a primary fiscal deficit of 13.037 billion pesos ($305.32 million) in March, the country’s Treasury minister Nicolás Dujovne said at a press conference on Monday, though posted a first quarter surplus of 10.347 billion pesos.

The quarterly surplus was equivalent to 0.1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), the minister said in a presentation to reporters.

The government has agreed to wipe out the primary fiscal deficit this year, under a $56.3 billion standby financing deal that President Mauricio Macri signed with the International Monetary Fund last year.

He was forced into the IMF agreement, which calls for unpopular subsidy cuts and tax increases, in 2018 when the plummeting value of the local peso sparked market jitters about Argentina’s ability to pay its dollar-denominated bonds.

Argentina has meanwhile pledged to freeze prices on dozens of staple products, including rice, sugar and milk, in a bid to rein in inflation and support recession-hit consumers ahead of Macri’s re-election bid in the October election.

The measures were announced after the nation was jolted last week by news that inflation sped up to 4.7 percent in March and was running at a 12-month rate of almost 55 percent. Zooming consumer price increases have sapped people’s spending power while hammering Macri in the opinion polls. ($1 = 42.7000 Argentine pesos) (Reporting by Jorge Iorio; Writing by Adam Jourdan Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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