October 7, 2016 / 1:17 PM / a year ago

Argentina announces gas price hikes after public hearings

BUENOS AIRES, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Argentina’s government announced new natural gas price increases on Friday after the Supreme Court vetoed an earlier attempt to slash subsidies for the fuel’s consumption until public hearings were held on the matter.

Prices, published in the official gazette, will increase between 300 and 400 percent for home heating gas and up to 500 percent for companies.

President Mauricio Macri, who took office in December promising to lift heavy market controls favored by the previous administration, sharply cut natural gas subsidies early in his term in a bid to rein in the budget deficit.

Heating bills then soared during a particularly cold Southern Hemisphere winter, prompting public protests.

Macri promised to cap home heating gas hikes at 400 percent after the protests but the Supreme Court ruled in August that consumers must have the opportunity to weigh in before price increases could be applied.

The hearings were held last month.

A reversal of the price increase led consumer prices to moderate in August, with inflation that had been seen around 40 percent on an annual basis slowing to just a 0.2 percent rise in that month. Raising the fuel’s prices will likely lead to higher inflation.

Energy Minister Juan José Aranguren is scheduled to give a press conference to explain the measures later on Friday. (Reporting by Hernán Nessi; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by W Simon)

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