(Adds milestones for Argentina currency, details on falling rand, other background)
By Jorge Otaola and Hugh Bronstein
BUENOS AIRES, March 27 (Reuters) - Argentina’s peso weakened nearly 3 percent on Wednesday, setting a new record low of 43.9 per U.S. dollar as concern about inflation, weak growth and October’s presidential election bit into market confidence in Latin America’s No. 3 economy.
The peso, which lost half its value against the greenback last year, has been one of the world’s worst-performing currencies this year, losing 14 percent so far in 2019. It has tumbled more than 10 percent this month alone.
The weakness has raised fears of a repeat of 2018, when investors dumped the currency amid what Argentine President Mauricio Macri called a year of economic “storms.”
After a stronger start this year, investors have been rattled by stubborn inflation, with consumer prices rising at a rate of more than 50 percent per year, while benchmark interest rates gallop along at over 66 percent.
The peso fell 2.85 percent on Wednesday after hitting a record low close of 42.65 per greenback on Tuesday. It has weakened steadily since the middle of last month.
The country’s central bank and treasury have signaled a more hawkish stance over the last month, looking to tighten monetary policy in order to tame inflation and protect the peso, which analysts said should limit the recent weakness.
Macri was forced by the tumbling peso last year to negotiate a $56.3 billion standby financing deal with the International Monetary Fund. The agreement requires his government to erase its primary fiscal deficit. His politically painful utility subsidy cuts are part of that fiscal effort.
Latin American currencies, including Brazil’s real, fell more broadly on Wednesday. South Africa’s rand also slumped as sentiment toward emerging market currencies was soured by a slide in the Turkish lira.
Reporting by Hugh Bronstein and Jorge Otaola in Buenos Aires Additional reporting by Walter Bianchi in Buenos Aires Writing by Adam Jourdan Editing by Susan Thomas and Matthew Lewis