Argentina's economic 'storms' drive poverty rate up to 32 pct

BUENOS AIRES, March 28 (Reuters) - Argentina's poverty rate rose to just under a third in the second half of 2018 as the country was battered by an economic recession, a tumbling peso and soaring inflation that has outstripped wages.

The country's statistics agency, INDEC, said on Thursday that 32 percent of the population was living in poverty, up from 27.3 percent in the first half of 2018. The proportion living in extreme poverty also rose, to 6.7 percent from 4.9 percent.

Argentina, which is heading for national elections in October, has been roiled by what President Mauricio Macri termed "endless storms" last year, which pushed the country to strike a $56.3 billion financing deal with the International Monetary Fund.

As part of that deal, Macri pledged to cut government spending and raise utilities prices, unpopular policies that have been the focus of public anger at regular street protests in Buenos Aires and other cities around the country.

The economic turmoil has hit small business and individuals hard, with inflation running at an annual rate of over 50 percent, sky-high interest rates cutting off access to credit and an embattled peso that has sunk in value against the dollar. (Reporting by Adam Jourdan and Jorge Iorio Editing by Leslie Adler)