Global Investing

But what does Argentina’s presidential couple think?

Markets are waiting for Argentine President Cristina Fernandez and her husband and predecessor ex-President Nestor Kirchner to show they support plans for Argentina to return to international credit markets after a long absence.  Fernandez and Kirchner are known as the presidential couple and no major Argentine policy move can go forward without their stamp of approval.  Decision making is seen as almost entirely concentrated in them.

So, no matter how much new Economy Minister Amado Boudou talks about his plans to resolve Argentina’s different debt problems and issue a new global bond, eyes are on the presidential couple.  Boudou says he wants to move forward on various fronts. First, he wants to reopen a massive 2005 restructuring to attract holders of some $20 billion in defaulted sovereigns to neutralize their lawsuits — but this means sending a bill to Congress, something the president would probably announce. Secondly, he wants to normalize rlations with the International Monetary Fund, which were derailed a few years ago.  Lastly, he wants to restructure some $6.7 in defaulted debt to wealthy creditor nations in the Paris Club. 

Argentine bonds have rallied strongly on expectations that Boudou will make progress on these fronts, but the rally could fizzle without prompt concrete steps.

Why has the president been silent for three months while Boudou repeats over and over his intention to return to the markets?  One theory is that the Kirchners’ top priority for the moment is getting through Congress their pet project, a broadcast reform bill that could break up some of the countries big media conglomerates.  Some bankers and investors expect that once the Senate votes on the bill, this week or next, the Kirchners will turn their attention to the debt situation.

The Kirchners could also be holding back waiting for the right timing on the markets. With debt prices in many emerging market economies rallying, they could perhaps get a lower interest rate on a new global bond if they wait a while longer. Or perhaps they are still refining the political message that goes along with a return to the capital markets. The Kirchners have been vocal critics of Wall Street and they don’t want to be seen by their supporters as playing by the rules of the investment community.

They’re lovin’ it

After a round of tax cuts, fiscal expansion and other bailout plans in the United States to rescue the economy, investors are betting that the chances of a U.S. government debt default are almost equal to the probability of a default by hamburger chain McDonald’s.

The cost of insuring U.S. government debt against default for five years is $48,562 a year for $10 million of U.S. Treasuries or 47.562 basis points, according to Credit Default Swaps (CDS) prices.

This compares with around $54,750 a year for McDonald’s or $41,000 for telecom company AT&T.