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The balancing act of Alberto Fernandez between populism and free market reforms

Wednesday, September 11th 2019 - 09:57 UTC
Full article 6 comments
Markets are looking closely to see if Alberto Fernandez follows Cristina Kirchner's example as a debt defaulter Markets are looking closely to see if Alberto Fernandez follows Cristina Kirchner's example as a debt defaulter
Capital controls have stanched the bleeding of reserves triggered by Fernandez's severe beating of business-friendly incumbent Macri in the August primary election Capital controls have stanched the bleeding of reserves triggered by Fernandez's severe beating of business-friendly incumbent Macri in the August primary election

Argentina's presidential front-runner Alberto Fernandez is on a tightrope between the interventionist policies of his better-known running mate Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and the stumbling free-market reforms of incumbent Mauricio Macri.

Whichever way he leans lies danger, with markets ready to pounce on any hint that he would follow Cristina Kirchner's example as a debt defaulter and voters ready to punish anyone who agrees with Macri's orthodoxy, which has led the economy to ruin.

“He is in a difficult position,” said Martin Vauthier, an economist at the consultancy Eco Go. “He has to deliver messages that in many respects are contradictory.”

Argentina's peso was flat on Tuesday at about 56 per U.S. dollar as investors looked for clues about Fernandez's policies as the Oct. 27 presidential election approaches.

Capital controls have stanched the bleeding of reserves triggered by Fernandez's unexpectedly severe beating of business-friendly incumbent Macri in the August primary election, a vote that all but guaranteed Fernandez will be sworn in as Argentina's next leader in December.

But the situation remains fragile, with Argentine stocks, bonds and the peso subject to wild swings depending on the signals to be sent by Fernandez in coming weeks.

“The government and the central bank have managed to calm the situation, but I think it is temporary because there is a lot of uncertainty about what will happen after October,” said Juan Pablo Fuentes, an economist with Moody's Analytics.

“The market takes it for granted that Fernandez is going to win, but nobody knows what measure he will take.”

The peso lost about a quarter of its value last month. It has regained some ground in September after the government announced limits on access to and international transfers of dollars, the preferred currency for Argentines nervous about the precariousness of Latin America's No. 3 economy.

Market players fret that Fernandez will take a harder stance than Macri towards investors as both political camps flirt with the idea of revamping Argentina's debt obligations in the face of a worsening recession and rising inflation outlook.

Cristina Kirchner's presence on the ticket has increased investor concerns about what policies will follow Macri's free-markets reform push, which have ended in recession and high inflation.

Macri and Kirchner are like the country's right- and left-wing bookends with the less-known Fernandez in the middle.

Fernandez straddled both positions in comments made on television on Monday night. “We are going to respect Argentina's debts, but without pressuring the people,” he said.

Categories: Economy, Politics, Argentina.

Top Comments

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  • Tarquin Fin

    “The balancing act of Alberto Fernandez between populism and free market reforms”. This doesn't end well. One of the two sides will get mutilated.

    Sep 12th, 2019 - 02:24 am +2
  • imoyaro

    Tarquin, given past history, I'm more worried about a bullet...

    Sep 12th, 2019 - 02:25 am +2
  • Tarquin Fin

    Or a convenient health issue ... Some rare flu variant from Cuba ...

    Sep 12th, 2019 - 04:29 pm +2
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