Despite efforts by the government to quell the black-market (or blue-dollar) for Argentina's foreign exchange, the unofficial rate surged yesterday to 10.45 Pesos per USD. This is now double the official rate of 5.22 Pesos per USD. This implicit 50% devaluation comes amid the growing realization that there is no savings option to maintain the purchasing power of the peso in the context of sustained high inflation (no matter what the officials say) and negative real interest rates. The government is not amused, suggesting the devaluation won't happen (just as Mexico did right up until the day before they devalued), "those who seek to make money at the expense of devaluations must wait for another government." Perhaps the government should be careful with their threats? And of course, this could never happen in the US or Japan, right?
And in the meantime, looking to hedge their inflation risk while taking advantage of the massive FX rate differential, the local population has found a new and original inflation hedge: BMWs.
Argentines are buying more BMWs, Jaguars and other luxury cars as a store of value as inflation decimates their deposits and pummels the nation’s bonds.
Purchases of cars from Germany’s Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) and Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc, owned by India’s Tata Motors Ltd. (TTMT), jumped the most in April among brands sold in Argentina. The sales were part of a 30 percent surge in car sales from a year earlier that was the biggest increase in 20 months, according to the Argentine Car Producers Association. While used-car prices rose in line with inflation last year, or about 25 percent, peso bonds tied to consumer prices fell 13 percent. The drop was the biggest in emerging markets.
Car sales in Argentina increased by the most in almost two years last month as a ban on buying dollars made Argentines turn to vehicles to protect savings against the fastest inflation in the Western Hemisphere after Venezuela. Luxury models are becoming more attractive because they are imported at the official dollar rate, said Gonzalo Dalmasso, vehicle industry analyst at Buenos Aires research company Abeceb.com. Argentines with savings in dollars are able to purchase cars at half the cost by trading in the unofficial currency market.
“I’m seeing a lot of people buying high-end cars for the first time, trading Minis for middle of the market models,” Ignacio Monteserin, a salesman at BMW’s Mini Cooper dealership in Buenos Aires’s Libertador Avenue, said. “It’s become very convenient to own luxury cars in general because of the big gap in the exchange rates and you get to have a quality good that will preserve the value of your money with time.”