Traders are seen at the Stock Exchange in Buenos Aires on August 12, 2019. The Buenos Aires stock exchange plunged 10% at the open on Monday following liberal President Mauricio Macri's crushing defeat in party primaries over the weekend. Picture: AFP/RONALDO SCHEMIDT
Traders are seen at the Stock Exchange in Buenos Aires on August 12, 2019. The Buenos Aires stock exchange plunged 10% at the open on Monday following liberal President Mauricio Macri's crushing defeat in party primaries over the weekend. Picture: AFP/RONALDO SCHEMIDT

Buenos Aires — Argentina's beleaguered peso currency collapsed 30.3% to record 65/$ on Monday, traders said, after market-friendly President Mauricio Macri's worse-than-expected performance in the country's Sunday primary election.

Bonds and shares were also expected to fall after opposition candidate Alberto Fernandez — whose running mate is former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner — dominated the primary by a wider-than-expected 15.5 percentage points margin.

The result cast serious doubt on Macri's chances of re-election for a second term in elections in October, analysts said.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts said the scale of the Fernandez win was much more extreme than their "bear case" scenario. "We expect a significant sell-off in EXD [hard currency] assets and heavy pressure in ARS [Argentinian peso] with a potential devaluation in coming weeks," they said in a note.

Fernandez's lead far exceeded the margin of 2-8 percentage points forecast in recent opinion polls.

"Markets react badly when they realise they were scammed. We are living a fictitious economy and the government is not giving answers," Fernandez said in a radio interview Monday morning.

Argentina is in recession with inflation at more than 55% after more than three years of Macri's policies. Investors nonetheless see the Fernandez/Kirchner duo as a riskier prospect than free-markets advocate Macri.

Kirchner imposed strict currency controls that harmed investment during her 2007-2015 administration. She feuded with the country's key farm sector over export taxes and presided over a multiyear standoff with bondholders that kept Argentina locked out of the international capital markets.

"Macri has already implemented a number of short-term measures to try to shore up support ahead of the October vote. Additional promises can be made, but the gap he needs to make up is a very wide one," Standard Chartered senior emerging-markets strategist Ilya Gofshteyn said.  

The comprehensive victory by Peronists Fernandez and Kirchner "paves the way for the return to left-wing populism that many investors fear", consultancy Capital Economics said in a note to clients.

"With a renewed focus on sovereign default risks, bonds, equities and the peso will come under severe pressure in the coming days. That said, falls in the currency might be tempered by intervention in the foreign-exchange market," it said.

The primary result indicated that Fernandez had enough support to clinch the presidency in October's first round, without having to go to a November run-off election.

A candidate needs at least 45% of the vote, or 40% and a difference of 10 percentage points over the second-place runner, in order to win the presidency outright. 

Reuters