Argentine inflation up, presaging hardship

Feb. 14, 2013 at 4:52 PM
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BUENOS AIRES, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Argentina's inflationary spiral worsened in January, with independent analysts estimating the monthly rate rise may be the highest in 22 months.

Critics of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner want the government to spend more time controlling inflation and promoting job creation. The government's burgeoning international diplomatic effort over the Falklands sovereignty claim is seen as diluting scarce financial resources that are needed for economic regeneration.

The independent financial analysis was leaked by opposition lawmakers who were able to access independent firms' data through the congressional freedom of expression committee. Independent financial analysts are banned from releasing their research except to Congress, and data are usually obtained through convoluted procedures pursued by opposition lawmakers.

The reported inflationary rate of 2.58 percent for January was calculated by analyzing the average of independent research results produced by private sector companies. That rate works out to about 26.28 percent per year.

The government has yet to release the January inflation figure but opposition critics say official versions of financial data are unreliable.

Argentina has been criticized by international bodies including the International Monetary Fund over the veracity of its statistics about economic indicators.

The government is also facing international censure over its alleged failure to address outstanding debt issues related to its sovereign defaults. Litigation by major creditors in U.S. courts has seesawed between rulings sympathetic to Argentina or its detractors.

U.S. President Barack Obama suspended Argentine participation in the Generalized System of Preferences in 2012, citing the country's failure to pay arbitration payments due to a number of U.S. firms that were affected by Argentina's 2002 devaluation.

Analysts said the reported inflationary spike was likely to set Argentina's angry labor unions again on the war path. Labor unions want higher wages to reflect price rises.

One government response has been to talk to supermarkets to lead them toward a price freeze for basic consumer commodities. Home appliance suppliers were also urged to hold down prices.

Fernandez has been telling the nation her policies of regenerating Argentine industry are paying off. She said a 1.9 percent expansion of the economy in 2012 was due mostly to industrial revival. Opposition critics want more data to support that claim.

Argentina's agriculture has witnessed several reversals because of drought, restrictive farm policies or external factors. Exports have also suffered because of price differentials triggered by overvaluation of the peso after a spate of capital inflows by opportunistic investor entities.

Government economists warned the peso's overvaluation could hurt Argentine exports outside the commodities sector.

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