Argentina Slams US Judge as 'Imperialist' as Peso Halts Rout

Friday, 22 Aug 2014 10:41 PM


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Argentina on Friday accused the U.S. judge who called the country's new debt restructuring plan illegal of making "imperialist" comments against the South American nation.

Latin America's No. 3 economy tipped into its second default in 12 years in July after U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa blocked payments to holders of issued under U.S. law that was restructured following its record $100 billion default in 2002.

Griesa ruled that measures proposed by Argentina's president late on Tuesday to make debt payments locally and push bondholders to bring their debt under Argentine law violated past court rulings. But he stopped short of holding the country in contempt.

President Cristina Fernandez's measures, if enacted and executed, would potentially allow Argentina to skirt Griesa's court orders and thus resume interest payments on an estimated $29 billion in restructured bonds.

Argentine Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said Griesa's choice of words was "unfortunate, incorrect and even, I would say, imperialist expressions."

Argentina defaulted after Griesa froze a $539 million interest payment, saying restructured bonds cannot be paid unless U.S. investment funds demanding 100 cents on the dollar, plus interest, are simultaneously paid.

Elliott Management Corp., a lead holdout investor suing Argentina via its NML Capital affiliate, is preparing to subpoena a number of international banks in its efforts to seize what it suspects are embezzled Argentine funds, a source at the hedge fund told Thomson Reuters IFR.

Argentine bonds extended losses but the peso halted a two-day rout, firming 0.2 percent on the black market to 13.880 per dollar. It struck a record low of 14.000 on Thursday.

Griesa's move not to level contempt charges against Argentina was aiding the peso erase some of its cumulative 5.2 percent loss on Wednesday and Thursday, market analysts said.

The government has pulled no punches in its stinging criticism of Griesa, accusing the judge of abusing Argentina's national sovereignty.

It said Griesa's remarks showed a "complete ignorance of the functioning of democratic institutions."

On Friday, Argentine dollar-denominated Discount bonds due in 2033 traded 2.8 percent lower to bid 78.925 cents on the dollar.

Fernandez's stance makes a resolution to the debt saga increasingly unlikely before the October 2015 presidential election, in which she is constitutionally barred from running.

"What may change that dynamic is a significant deterioration in the macro environment coupled with a meaningful further devaluation of the peso," said Nasser Ahmad, chief investment officer of New York-based hedge fund DA Capital.

"That may force the current government back to the negotiating table," he added.

The peso's mid-week slump reinforced expectations that a drawn-out crisis will fuel one of the world's highest inflation rates, sap shrinking foreign reserves and deepen the country's recession.

"If capital continues to pour out of the economy, the authorities will probably have to devalue," wrote David Rees, emerging markets economist at Capital Economics.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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