Argentine bonds up, peso stable as markets react to Guzman's debt agenda

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By Cassandra Garrison and Walter Bianchi

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentine markets had a tempered reaction on Thursday with bond prices up, risk spreads down and the peso stable after Economy Minister Martin Guzman laid out his vision for handling the debt crisis in Latin America’s No. 3 economy.

The peso was flat at 59.82 per dollar while country risk fell 59 basis points to 2,082, according to JP Morgan’s emerging Markets Bond Index Plus .

Over-the-counter bonds rose 1%, with dollar-denominated paper leading the way after a late Wednesday news conference in which Guzman promised a constructive stance in restructuring talks with bond holders under Argentina’s new Peronist administration.

Guzman called Argentina’s economy “extremely fragile” and said the country will have to grow its way out of its “virtual default.”

He promoted a production-oriented agenda over more public spending cuts and said he planned to create an advisory commission to assess debt sustainability. His position aligned with that of new President Alberto Fernandez, who previously said he wanted to meet the country’s debt obligations, but that the economy first needed to grow.

Guzman, a 37-year-old academic with close ties to American economist Joseph Stiglitz, must navigate restructuring talks with bondholders and the International Monetary Fund under its $57 billion standby loan agreement.

An IMF spokesman said on Thursday that it needs details about Argentina’s economic plans before discussing any debt restructuring.

Some analysts indicated that Guzman’s initial comments came as no surprise to investors, but that they were waiting for him to fill in the blanks on plans to generate cash flow and set repayment terms for bondholders.

Nikhil Sanghani, a London-based economist at Capital Economics, said he was encouraged by Guzman’s amicable tone with creditors, but said the question of haircuts still lingered.

“There remains a lot of uncertainty over his approach to a debt restructuring and whether haircuts will be imposed on private creditors,” Sanghani told Reuters.

“For our part, we continue to see little upside for bond prices as we think that a large debt write-down will be required to put Argentina’s public debt onto a sustainable path, and this approach is likely to be endorsed by the IMF.”

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