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Argentina markets edge lower after Milei's key reform bill diluted

Published 01/29/2024, 11:37 AM
Updated 01/29/2024, 01:13 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators protest outside the National Congress during a one-day national strike, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, January 24, 2024. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian/File Photo

By Walter Bianchi

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina's bond, currency and stock markets edged lower on Monday, though they avoided a sharp slide after the government was forced to pull a key fiscal section from its major "omnibus" bill aimed at reforming the country's embattled economy.

The South American country's libertarian President Javier Milei agreed on Friday to yank changes to taxation and pensions from the mammoth bill that is working its way through Congress, where the government's minority bloc faces stern opposition.

That should make passing the bill easier, but it also removes key reforms aimed at cutting spending and boosting state revenues to help meet a zero-deficit target this year as the government looks to trim high debts and bring down inflation that is running above 200%.

"We consider that with the exclusion of the fiscal package it is more likely Congress will approve the 'Omnibus Law'," Portfolio Personal Investments said in a note, adding that the hit to markets should be limited as long as the bill moved ahead.

"We would hope that there are no major points of conflict and that it can be approved quickly. Otherwise, it will be a very bad sign for markets."

Argentina's S&P Merval stock index was down more than 1% on Monday, led by energy and financial sectors, while sovereign bonds also slid around 1.1% on average. The peso currency in parallel markets widely used to access dollars also edged lower.

"The attention this week will remain on the politics, as the extraordinary sessions in Congress move ahead and with the expectation of possible announcements," local settlement and clearing agent Puente wrote.

© Reuters. Supporters of Argentina's President-elect Javier Milei gather outside the National Congress, on the day of his swearing-in ceremony, in Buenos Aires, Argentina December 10, 2023. REUTERS/Martin Cossarini

Congress is set to discuss the omnibus bill on Tuesday.

Milei took office in January pledging to revive the country from its worst economic crises in decades with tough austerity and cost-cutting measures, but he faces a major challenge from opposition lawmakers and street protests.

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