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Argentina inflation nears 80%; spiraling prices squeeze shoppers

By Hernan Nessi and Miguel Lo Bianco

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina’s monthly inflation blew past forecasts at 7% in August and soared to nearly 80% from a year earlier, a government agency reported on Wednesday, despite efforts by officials and central bankers to curb spiraling prices.

The month-on-month inflation reading, reported by the INDEC statistics agency, was cooler than the 7.4% in July but above the 6.6% median analyst forecast in a Reuters poll.

The South American country, a major grains producer, has one of the world’s highest inflation rates. The situation has been aggravated by rising global food and fuel costs and has dented the popularity of President Alberto Fernandez’s center-left government ahead of elections next year.

The government has pushed retailers to freeze some prices, with some supermarkets rationing purchases of staples like flour, sugar and milk in a bid to control prices. Shopping costs have nonetheless soared.

“From one week to the next, you seem to spend twice as much,” Graciela Negretti, a 67-year-old retiree in Buenos Aires, told Reuters.

“Yesterday I went to the supermarket and I came home just sickened. I told my children that things surely could not increase this much in just a few days.”

Inflation in the 12 months through August hit 78.5%, while prices were up 56.4% in the first eight months of the year. A central bank poll recently forecast that Argentina would end the year with an inflation rate of 95%, while some private analysts predict it will hit 100%.

Lucia Estevez, 38, an interior designer, told Reuters that many people were not making it to the end of the month as inflation devalued their salaries, forcing people to cut out small luxuries they had enjoyed.

“You’re always trying to just stay afloat,” she said. “You never have anything spare to be able to treat yourself.”

(Reporting by Hernan Nessi, Miguel Lo Bianco and Jorge Otaola; Editing by Paul Simao and David Gregorio)

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