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Argentina: Stock market plunges 8.33%


[Buenos Aires] The Buenos Aires stock exchange plummeted more than 8.0 per cent on Monday, pulled down by sharp declines in energy and bank shares amid market volatility as Argentina seeks support from the IMF.

The Merval Index dropped 8.33 per cent to 27,636 points, after President Mauricio Macri fired Energy Minister Juan Jose Aranguren and Production Minister Francisco Cabrera in a surprise move over the weekend.

Argentina is expecting to receive Wednesday the first US$15 billion tranche of the US$50 billion standby loan announced by the International Monetary Fund in return for a commitment to reforms of an economy weakened by a chronic budget deficit and more than 20 per cent annual inflation.

The Argentine peso, however, continued its slow recovery, gaining 0.66 percent Monday on Friday's close.

The stock market drop comes on the eve of a "Super Tuesday," the date when Central Bank's debt - equivalent to nearly one third of its reserves - is renewed.

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If investors do not renew the debt, there is likely to be an increased demand for the US greenbacks, making the peso less valuable.

The IMF announced the loan in early June after Latin America's third largest economy sought help to bolster market confidence following a currency crisis in April and May.

Last week, Mr Macri replaced Central Bank head Federico Sturzenegger with the finance minister, Luis Caputo, a former Deutsche Bank executive.

Mr Caputo's main task is to prevent a run on the peso, which has lost nearly 35 per cent of its value since January.

On Saturday, Mr Macri fired two more powerful cabinet members, Aranguren - the former president of Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell in Argentina - and Mr Cabrera.

Mr Macri was forced to defend Mr Aranguren in March after the minister admitted keeping his US$88 million fortune abroad because he lacked faith in the domestic economy.

Dante Sica, an economist, takes over from Mr Cabrera, while Javier Iguacel, an engineer, assumes the post Mr Aranguren held since 2015.

Mr Macri's decision earlier this year to seek an IMF loan is an unpopular move in a country in which many associate the Washington-based Fund with painful memories of past economic and social crises.


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