Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Argentina's Lock Box

"Argentine President Cristina Kirchner's [CK] political troubles turned into an open standoff Wednesday, when the country's central banker rejected her request to resign following his refusal to transfer billions in foreign-currency reserves to pay the country's debt. ... Mrs. Kirchner, along with her husband and predecessor Nestor Kirchner, have tried to assert more control over the economy--nationalizing pension funds and an airline--even as their popularity has declined among Argentines. The latest conflict puts the couple on a collision course with both the central bank and a newly invigorated congressional opposition. ... Mrs. Kirchner announced the creation of the 'Bicentennial Fund for Stability and Reduced Indebtedness,' [BF] to be funded with central-bank reserves, on Dec. 14. ... Financial markets had welcomed the creation of the fund, coming as Argentina plans to start borrowing again after eight years of being largely frozen out of markets in the wake of a massive 2002 debt default", my emphasis, Matt Moffett & Matthew Cowley (M&C) at the WSJ, 7 January 2010, link:

"Argentine President [CK] said she was firing the country's central-bank chief Thursday, escalating a battle over foreign-currency reserves into a nascent constitutional crisis. ... Some Argentine legal specialists also said the president doesn't have the authority to unilaterally dismiss the top banker, saying the dismissal decree is unconstitutional. ... The announcement came after markets closed Thursday. It was unclear how the opposition-dominated Congress would respond, but some if its leaders called for Mr. Redrado not to comply with the decree. ... Argentina's decree, signed by all cabinet members and issued late Thursday afternoon, followed two days of mounting government pressure on Mr. Redrado to transfer $6.57 billion in reserves to a fund Mrs. Kirchner unveiled in December to conver some of Argentina's debt payments. ... The opposition maintains Mrs. Kirchner and her husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, are trying to steamroll the central bank, as they already have the media, the national statistics bureau, agribusiness and other institutions to seize foreign-currency reserves so they can boost patronage spending and sustain their power", my emphasis, Matt Moffett at the WSJ, 8 January 2010, link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126289800502920289.html.

"A federal judge blocked President [CK] from using foreign-currency reserves to pay Argentina's national debt and revoked the dismissal of the central-bank chief who opposed that policy. ... On Friday morning, federal judge Maria Hose Sarmiento granted an injunction request by two opposing parties barring the central bank from transferring money into the so-called [BF], which Mrs. Kirchner had hoped to create with $6.57 billion from the reserves. A few hours later, Judge Sarmiento ordered the reinstatement of the bank president, Martin Redrado, whom Mrs. Kirchner dismissed on Thursday for refusing the make the transfer. ... Earlier in the day he defended his action in defying Mrs. Kirchner. 'The reserves belong to all Argentines and if they are to be used for some purposed besides backing the currency, ther matter should go before Congress,' he said. ... Underlying the dispute is the Kirchner administration's need for funds to sustain the Peronist patronage machine. Last year, public spending grew at three times the rate of revenue. ... Now the whole idea of the [BF] may have boomeranged, revealing the fragility of Argentina institutions. ... Roberto Sifon Arevalo, a director in the Latin America Sovereign Ratings Group at Standard & Poor's said compromising central-bank authority is disturbing to investors. 'There is a conceptual reason why people focus on the independence of the central bank,' he said", my emphasis, M&C at the WSJ, 9 January 2010, link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126296529801421655.html.

"Few Argentine politicians are prepared to pay the political cost of spending cuts or tax rises to pay off bondholders. As it is [CK] may have turned the Central Bank chief into a martyr for the cause of integrity in public policy", Economist, 9 January 2010, link: http://www.economist.com/world/americas/PrinterFriendly.cfm?story_id=15213761.

My idea: let's swap Redrado for Zimbabwe Ben (ZB) and Robert Schiller! What idiocy, to welcome creating a paper fund instead of reductions in Argentine spending. This fund would have as much substance as the Social Security "lockbox". CK wanted this fund to further her confidence game.

Bienvenidos a Argentina. Was this article really about Argentina, or the Obama administration?

How closely are ZB and Peter Orzag following this?

I await ZB's following Redrado's lead.


W.C. Varones said...

When is everybody going to wake up and just start defaulting?

Why should Argentina keep trying to pay an impossible debt service? Why should the U.S.?

Let's default now and then maybe people won't be so stupid as to lend to the U.S. government at 3-5% in the future.

Anonymous said...

Put this up there with the financial system "crisis" in Iceland... they don't have similar plots but they both represent titanic struggles generated by the global bond vigilantes... the players in the "City" and "Wall Street" and La Défense.

Fiscal strains? Sure... how does CK continue the Peronist patronage machine? I'm sure she sees the seizure as a stepping stone to international borrowing again... she's probably being advised by Lord Blankfein's henchmen.

Speaking of which... how many LB henchmen "support" Orzag? Are they counseling him and B. Frank on restructuring Fannie and Freddie now that Geithner is exiting?

Getting all the MBS paper off ZB's balance sheet would give the boys a lot more room to maneuver.