Hasta la vista, capo. Luis Caputo, Argentina’s central bank president, resigned for “personal reasons” on Sept. 25, 2018. Photographer: Diego Levy/Bloomberg
Argentina’s central banker Luis Caputo surprisingly resigned on Tuesday.
Caputo stuck with the usual political graces in a statement to the press, thanking president Mauricio Macri for putting him in charge. But what appears more clear to the market is that Caputo has run out of fingers and toes to plug up the Buenos Aires Titanic. The ship is sinking.
Guido Sandleris, an academic and economic policy secretary will take over at the central bank. Monetary policy is expected to remain unchanged.
Sanderlis is an old hand at Argentina economic crises, having worked for the Finance Ministry back in 2000.
To some close Argentina watchers, this is par for the course. This can go down very quickly from here.
Macri invited the International Monetary Fund back into Argentina in May. The country was running out of money. But bringing in the IMF is like signing a political death wish. The Fund is incredibly unpopular in Latin America and in Argentina in particular, the home of anti-colonial Marxist Che Guevera. Macri has to deliver the best IMF package Argentina has ever had. To make that more unstanderable to American readers, it is like the Curse of the Bambino. The Boston Red Sox could only break the curse by beating the New York Yankees and going on to win the World Series. The IMF is similar. Macri has to make for a winning program, or he is toast.
On Bloomberg television yesterday, Macri’s body language suggested a man under extreme pressure. During a trip to Buenos Aires last week, investors were moderately optimistic that Macri’s IMF plan will work. One investor who did not speak on the record due to “security reasons” told me that, “Macri took too long to do this deal,” saying he thinks it is “too late” to turn things around before next year’s election, despite Macri saying the turnaround comes in 15 months.
Argentina’s markets have been falling for 48 hours despite Macri’s trip to calm markets.
Mauricio Macri, Argentina’s president, listens during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York, U.S., on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. There’s a “zero chance” of Argentina missing a debt payment thanks to support from the International Monetary Fund and a flow of dollars from 2019 crop exports, Macri said. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg
How can a country with no growth get enough taxes to keep the lights on, and the bills paid? Including debt service to foreign entities, surely to tick off the electorate who will absolutely feel they are going without in order to pay foreign lenders.
Much of this current crisis resembles the Argentina of 2001, at least politically. Heading into that year, President Fernando de la Rua had a roughly 75% approval rating. By the fall of 2001, he declared a state of emergency that led to infighting among the Peronista government in charge. The left wing of the coalition Peronista parties called for general strikes against government cutbacks. De la Rua was out on the street two months later, ushering in a collection of presidents who would take over his spot only to quit a few weeks later. The outcome led to the election of Nestor Kirchner and later his wife Cristina, now a Senator under investigation in the boiling-over “Notebooks” scandal.
Argentina is a complete mess.
Bond yields rose like a rocket. The peso is unlikely to hold steady in the high 30s for long.
To save his political future, Macri will have to make hard concessions. Those concessions may include price controls and a reduction to planned government spending cuts.
Argentina 10 year bond. Intraday trading. Yields spiked on the news that Caputo resigned.Bloomberg
Argentina is a cyborg economy stuck in its own Cold War. It’s one part Western free market, one part Soviet communism dependent on big government to support a large portion of the population living along the outskirts of Buenos Aires and in the poorer interior provinces. Macri is trying to support the market portion of this hybrid model economy while cutting out the state-controlled portion of it. By doing so, his central banker has been forced to raise interest rates to a growth-killing 60% to curb inflation hoving around 40%. Which happens to be double the inflation from the Cristina Kirchner years.
Caputo says he resigned for “personal reasons”, adding that he believes the IMF deal will cure Argentina of its passed ills and re-establish market confidence in the country.
Some speculators believe that Caputo resigned because Argentina needs even more money from the IMF.
All ashore who’s going ashore…The transatlantic liner Titanic is towed out of the harbor of Southampton, United Kingdom, before sailing to New York, United States of America, photograph from the magazine LIllustration, year 70, no 3608, April 20, 1912.