Investors with exposure to Argentina will have been dismayed in recent weeks by the surging cost of insuring that investment — Argentine 5-year credit default swaps have risen more than 300 basis points since mid-May to the highest levels since 2009. That means one must stump up close to $1.5 million to insure $10 million worth of Argentine debt against default for a five year period, data from Markit shows.
The rise coincides with growing fears that President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner is getting ready to crack down on people’s dollar holdings. Fears of forcible de-dollarisation have sent Argentine savers scurrying to the banks to withdraw their hard currency and stash it under mattresses. That has widened the gap between the official and the “black market” exchange rate. (see the graphic below from Capital Economics)
While government officials have denied there is such a move afoot, Fernandez has not helped matters by exhorting people to “think in pesos”. That will be hard for Argentines, most of whom have vivid memories of hyperinflation, default and devaluation. Unsurprisingly, most prefer to save in dollars.
So how worried should holders of Argentine bonds be? Not very, say analysts (unless one holds peso securities).
First of all, dollar debt payments due this year amount to just over $5 billion (a $2.3 billion Boden issue maturing in August and a $3 billion payout on GDP warrants in December). But central bank reserves (which the government is free to dip into) stand at $47 billion.