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Prospects for further rate cuts in Brazil, due to the sluggishness of the economic recovery and low inflation, have played against the BRL in recent weeks.
The Brazilian BRL has remained relatively stable year-to-date, following a strong rebound in January. But downward pressures have re-emerged over the last two months, as shown in our first chart.
Brazil's central bank looked through the recent dip in the BRL and left interest rates at 6.50% at Wednesday's Copom meeting, in line with the consensus.
Brazil's central bank kept the Selic policy rate at 6.50% this week, as markets broadly expected.
Copom's meeting was the focal point this week in Brazil. The committee eased by 25bp for the second straight meeting, leaving the Selic rate at 13.75%, and it opened the door for larger cuts in Q1. Rates sat at 14.25% for 15 months before the first cut, in October. In this week's post-meeting statement, policymakers identified weak economic activity data, the disinflation process--actual and expectations--and progress on the fiscal front as the forces that prompted the rate cut.
Data released this week in Brazil, coupled with the message from President Bolsonaro at the World Economic Forum, vowing to meet the country's fiscal targets and reduce distortions, support our benign inflation view and monetary policy forecasts for this year.
The Brazilian Central Bank's policy board--the Copom--met expectations on Wednesday, voting unanimously to keep the Selic rate on hold at 6.50%.
The deterioration of global risk appetite and, in particular, domestic politics have put the Brazilian real under severe pressure in recent weeks.
Brazilian financial assets lately appear to be responding only to developments in the presidential election race and external jitters.
The BRL remains under severe stress, despite renewed signals of a sustained economic recovery and strengthening expectations that the end of the monetary easing cycle is near.
Brazil's external accounts have recovered dramatically this year, and we expect a further improvement--albeit at a much slower pace--in the fourth quarter. The steep depreciation of the BRL last year, and the improving terms of trade due to the gradual recovery in commodity prices, drove the decline in the current account deficit in the first half.
Brazil's macroeconomic scenario is becoming easier to navigate for the central bank. Both actual inflation and expectations are slowing rapidly, as shown in our first chart. And since the March BCB monetary policy meeting, the BRL has appreciated about 10% against the USD, while commodity prices and EM sentiment have also improved markedly.
In a relatively light week in terms of economic indicators in Brazil, the inflation numbers and the potential effect of the recent BRL sell-off garnered all the attention.
Brazil's recovery has been steady in recent months, and Q1 likely will mark the end of the recession. The gradual recovery of the industrial and agricultural sectors has been the highlight, thanks to improving external demand, the lagged effect of the more competitive BRL, and the more stable political situation, which has boosted sentiment.
Brazil's external position continue to improve, but we are sticking to our view that further significant gains are unlikely in the second half, given the stronger BRL. For now, though, we still see some momentum, with the unadjusted trade surplus increasing to USD7.2B in June, up from USD4.0B a year earlier. Exports surged 24% year-over-year but imports rose only 3%.
Brazil and Argentina, South America's biggest economies are going through a metamorphosis. Brazil is emerging from its recession and a modest recovery is on the horizon. Exports have rebounded, thanks to the lagged effect of the BRL's sharp sell-off last year, and confidence has improved significantly in recent months. The likelihood that interim President Michel Temer will stay on as head of Brazil's government has also helped to boost sentiment.
Broad-based inflation pressures in Brazil remain tame despite the sharp BRL depreciation this year, totalling about 7% in the last three months alone.
Brazil economic and political outlook is still opaque, but grim, after a vast array of negative news. Impeachment of President Rousseff remains a possibility; the process of fiscal consolidation is messy and politically bloody; rumors that Finance Minister Levy might leave his post next year have intensified; and the latest data showed that the recession worsened in Q3. As a consequence, the BRL and interest rates have been under pressure and we see no clear signs that the turmoil will ease soon.
Most LatAm currencies traded higher against the USD yesterday, adding to the gains achieved after Donald Trump's inauguration last Friday. The MXN, which was the best performer during yesterday's session, was up about 0.8%; it was followed by the CLP, and the BRL. The positive performance of most LatAm currencies, especially the MXN, is related to positioning and technical factors.
Brazil's external accounts continue to be the country's bright spot, having improved considerably in recent quarters. The unadjusted current account deficit for January, USD4.8B, was lower than expected and much smaller than the USD12.2B shortfall a year earlier.
Brazil's external accounts are well under control, despite the wider deficit in January, mainly driven by seasonal deterioration on the trade account.
Rising inflation is pressuring some LatAm central banks to take a cautious stance at a time when growth is subpar, particularly in the two biggest economies of the region.
Brazil's inflation rate remained well under control over the first half of February. We see no threats in the near term, indicating that more stimulus will be forthcoming from the BCB.
Inflation in Brazil and Mexico is ending Q3 under control, allowing the central banks to keep easing monetary policy.
Brazil's external accounts were the bright spot last year, once again, but the ne ws will soon take a turn for the worse. The current account deficit fell to just USD24B last year, or 1.3% of GDP, from USD59B in 2015. The improvement was driven by the trade surplus, which rose to USD48B, the highest since 1992, when the comparable data series begins. A 20% plunge in imports, coupled with a mere 3% dip in exports, explain the rising trade surplus.
Inflation in the biggest economies in the region remains close to cyclical lows, allowing central banks to ease even further over the next few months.
This week's November mid-month inflation reports in Brazil and Mexico underscored their divergent trends. Inflation pressures are steadily falling in Brazil, but in Mexico, the pass-through from the MXN's sell- off is driving up inflation and inflation expectations.
Mexico's economy continues to bring good news, despite the tough external environment for all EM economies. According to the economic activity index, a monthly proxy for GDP, growth gained further momentum in Q4. Activity rose 2.7% year-over-year in November, supported by stronger services activities, which expanded 0.3% month-to-month. The services sector has been the main driver of the current cycle, growing 3.8% year-over-year in November, bolstering our optimism about the domestic economy in the near-term.
The state of the Mexican economy is still favorable, despite the slowdown over the last few quarters. This week, the IGAE economic activity index--a monthly proxy for GDP--rose 2.0% year-over-year in July, a relatively solid pace, but down from 3.2% in June, and 2.6% in the first half. All these data suggest that economic activity failed to gather momentum at the beginning of Q3 after a disappointing first half of the year.
Recent polls suggest that Jair Bolsonaro has comfortably beaten Fernando Haddad, to become Brazil's president.
Brazil's economic outlook is gradually improving following a challenging Q2, which was hit by political risk, putting business and consumer confidence under pressure.
Inflation pressures in Brazil are still easing rapidly. The mid-May unadjusted IPCA- 15 index rose just 0.2% month-to-month, much less than the 0.6% historical average for the month. Base effects pushed the year-over-year rate down to 3.8% from 4.1% in April. Food prices, healthcare and personal costs were the main drivers of the modest month-to-month increase.
Brazil's external accounts were a relatively bright spot last year, once again.
Brazil's external accounts remain solid, despite the recent modest deterioration, making it easier for the country to withstand external and domestic risks.
We are going to print two days before the July 1 presidential election in Mexico.
Brazil's economic prospects continue to deteriorate rapidly, due to a combination of rising political uncertainty, the failure of the new government to advance on reforms, and ongoing external threats.
Brazil's external accounts continue to surprise to the upside, with the current account deficit remaining close to historic lows and capital flows performing better than anticipated, mostly due to higher-than- expected FDI.
A long period of extremely accommodative U.S. monetary policy generated sizable capital inflows and asset price appreciation in EM countries.
Banxico cut its policy rate by 25bp to 7.75% yesterday, as was widely expected, following August's 25bp easing.
The economic data in Brazil were poor while we were away.
LatAm's relatively calm market environment has been thrown into disarray over the last few weeks.New fears of a slowdown in China, political turmoil in the U.S. and, most importantly, the serious corruption allegations facing Brazil's President, Michel Temer, have triggered a modest correction in asset markets and have disrupted the region's near-term policy dynamics.
Most LatAm currencies have been under pressure recently, with the Brazilian real and the Chilean peso breaking all-time lows versus the USD in recent weeks.
Before this week's earthquake, the resilience of Mexico's economy in the face of a volatile and challenging global backdrop owed much to the strength of domestic demand, especially private consumption.
At Wednesday's BCB monetary policy meeting, led for the first time by the new president, Roberto Campos Neto, the COPOM voted unanimously to maintain the Selic rate at 6.50%, the lowest on record.
Brazil's central bank kept the SELIC rate on hold on Wednesday at 14.25% for the eight consecutive meeting. The decision, which was widely expected, was unanimous, but the post-meeting statement was more detailed and informative than the central bank's June communiqué. We think the shift was intentional; the central bank's new board, headed by Mr. Ilan Goldfajn, is eager to strengthen the institution's credibility and transparency.
Brazil's recent political and economics news has shifted the near-term outlook from bad to worse. President Rousseff on Friday replaced hawkish Finance Minister Joaquim Levy, appointed just over a year ago, with a close partner, Planning Minister Nelson Barbosa. Mr. Levy resigned after continued conflicts with the government, including frustration by the Congress of his attempts to rein in the fiscal mess. Mr. Barbosa is known to be less market friendly, and will likely defend countercyclical measures, delaying any rapid fiscal consolidation. The appointment will deteriorate investors' confidence even further, placing the markets under enormous strain.
Brazil's inflation rate remained well under control over the first half of February.
Brazil's decision to keep interest rates at 14.25% on Wednesday was a surprise. The consensus forecast immediately before the meeting was for a 25bp increase. As recently as Tuesday, though, most forecasters expected a 50bp increase, following hawkish comments from Board members since the last meeting in November, and rising inflation expectations. But the day before the meeting, the IMF revised its forecast for 2016 GDP to -3.5%, much worse than the 1% drop it predicted in October.
Inflation in Brazil remained subdued at the start of the second quarter, strengthening the odds for an additional interest rate cut next month, and opening the door for further stimulus in June.
Brazil's current account deficit is stabilizing following an substantial narrowing since early 2015, thanks to the deep recession.
Mexico's economy slowed marginally in Q4, due mainly to the challenging external environment, but the domestic economy remains relatively healthy. Real GDP rose 0.5% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, following a 0.8% solid expansion in Q3. Year-over-year growth dipped to 2.5% from 2.8%.
Brazilian inflation rate remained well under control at the start of this year, and we think the news will continue to be favorable for most of this year.
Data released yesterday in Brazil helped to lay the ground for interest rate cuts over the coming months.
Idiosyncratic developments have driven market volatility in LatAm in recent weeks.
Political turmoil in Brazil continues to undermine President Dilma Rousseff's leverage over the economy. On Friday, the Lower House of Congress voted to start impeachment proceeding against Ms. Rousseff. She has until early April to present her defense against charges that she doctored government accounts and used graft proceeds to fund the 2014 electoral campaign.
Inflation pressures in Brazil and Mexico are well under control, with the August mid-month readings falling more than expected, strengthening the case for the BCB and Banxico to cut interest rates in the near term.
Brazil's central bank is finally decisively facing its demon, persistently high inflation. The eight-member policy board, known as Copom, decided unanimously on Wednesday to increase the Selic rate by 50bp to 12.25%, the highest level in more than three years, in line with the consensus.
The bad news just keeps coming for Brazil's economy. The mid-month CPI, the IPCA-15 index, rose 1.2% month-to-month in March. Soaring energy prices remain the key contributor to the inflation story in Brazil, pushing up the housing component by 2.8% in March, after a 2.2% increase in February.
Mexico's private spending stumbled at the start of the second quarter. Retail sales fell 0.3% month-to-month in April after three consecutive increases, hit by an unexpected 1.6% drop in both supermarket and apparel sales, and a surprising 1.2% fall in food sales. In year-over-year terms, total sales rose 4.6% in April, down from 5.6% in March.
Economic data released last week underscored that Brazil's economic recovery is continuing; the effect of recent bold rate cuts and improving domestic fundamentals will further support the gradual recovery of the labour market.
Brazil's industrial sector was off to a soft-looking start in Q1, but the fall in January output was chiefly payback for an especially strong end to 2017.
The Brazilian Senate concluded last week the first vote- of-two- on the pension reform.
Brazil's benchmark inflation index, the IPCA, fell 0.1% month-to-month unadjusted in August, below market expectations.
The Brazilian central bank cut its benchmark Selic interest rate by 50bp, to 7.0%, on Thursday night and confirmed our view that the end of the easing cycle is not far off.
Brazil's industrial sector continues to suffer, despite September's report surprising marginally on the upside. Output contracted 1.3% month-to-month in September, after a 0.9% fall in August, pushing the year over-year rate down to -10.9% down from -8.8% in August. This is the biggest drop since April 2009. Output has fallen an eye-popping -7.4% year-to-date, and in the third quarter alone activity contracted by 3.2% quarter-on-quarter, in line with our vie w for a 1.2% contraction in real GDP for the third quarter.
The Brazilian industrial sector started this year on a very downbeat note, despite a 2% month-to-month jump in output. The underlying trend in activity is still very weak. Production fell 5.2% year-over-year.
Friday's Brazil industrial production data were surprisingly upbeat. Output rose 0.1% month-to-month in July, slightly better than the consensus forecast for no change. July's modest gain was the fifth consecutive increase, confirming that industrial output in Brazil is stabilizing, and it paints a less grim picture of GDP growth at the start of Q3.
Brazilian data strengthened early in Q4, supporting the case for the COPOM to slow the pace of rate cuts. We expect the SELIC policy rate to be lowered by 50bp today, to 7.0%.
Brazil's interim government has been trying to put the kibosh on the vicious circle of recession, capital outflows, and political pandering that has dogged the country for so long. In his first few weeks at the helm, despite the political turmoil, Mr. Temer has started to tackle Brazil's fiscal mess, the country's biggest headache.
The Brazilian Central Bank's policy board--the Copom--voted unanimously on Wednesday to keep the Selic rate on hold at 6.50%.
Markets have been positively surprised by Brazil's rapid disinflation, the efforts at fiscal reform, and the prospect of growth in the economy this year. The Ibovespa index is now above its pre-crisis high and the real has approached the key level of three per USD in recent months. But the latest GDP report, released yesterday, showed that the economy struggled in Q4. Real GDP fell 0.9% quarter-on-quarter, worse than the revised 0.7% drop in Q3.
News on Mr. Bolsonaro's economic plans and announcements on key names for his government this week are helping the currency and easing risks perception in Brazil.
China's official, unadjusted trade data for October grabbed the headlines, as they look great at first glance.
Recent inflation numbers across LatAm have surprised, in both directions. On the upside, Brazil's IPCA index rose 0.2% month-to-month in September, above the market consensus forecast of 0.1%.
The Brazilian central bank cut the benchmark Selic interest rate by 25bp, to 6.75%, on Wednesday night, as expected.
Data released on Friday showed that November inflation was in line with, or below, expectations in Brazil, Colombia and Chile.
Brazil's March industrial production report, released on Thursday last week, was weaker than we and the markets were expecting, while the recent deterioration in sentiment surveys highlights the downside risks to the rather fragile economic recovery.
Headline inflation in Brazil remained low in October, and even breached the lower bound of the BCB's target range.
Brazil's recent data show that inflation is still falling, allowing the central bank to ease further next month, while economic activity is improving, though the rate of growth has slowed.
Yesterday's Brazilian industrial production data were relatively upbeat.
The week started well for Brazil's President Bolsonaro.
The downturn in LatAm is finally bottoming out, but the economy of the region as a whole will not return to positive year-over-year economic growth until next year. The domestic side of the region's economy is improving, at the margin, thanks mainly to the improving inflation picture, and relatively healthy labor markets.
The news in Brazil on inflation and politics has been relatively positive in recent weeks, allowing policymakers to keep cutting interest rates to boost the stuttering recovery.
The key message of the minutes of the Copom meeting, released yesterday, is that policymakers remain worried about the inflation outlook and, in particular, about uncertainties surrounding fiscal tightening. But the Committee reinforced the signal that the Selic rate is likely to remain at the current level, 14.25%, for a "sufficiently prolonged period". The economy is in a severe recession and the rebalancing process has been longer and more painful than the Central Bank anticipated.
Brazil's unadjusted current account surplus soared to USD2.9B in May, its highest level since 2006, from USD1.1B in May 2016.
Brazil's industrial production surprised to the downside in August, suggesting that manufacturing is struggling to gather momentum over the second half of the year.
Data released last week confirm that Brazil's recovery has continued over the second half of the year, supported by steady household consumption and rebounding capex.
The data in LatAm were all over the map while we were out.
Brazil's recession eased considerably in the first quarter, due mainly to a slowing decline in gross fixed capital formation, a strong contribution from net exports, and a sharp, albeit temporary, rebound in government spending. Real GDP fell 0.3% quarter-on-quarter, much less bad than the revised 1.3% contraction in Q4.
While we were out, Brazil's central bank delivered a widely-expected 75bp easing, cutting the benchmark rate to 7.5% in an unanimous vote.
Brazil's mid-April inflation report delivered more evidence that inflation is decelerating; it fell to 9.3% from 10.0% in March, reaching the slowest pace since July 2015. The unadjusted month-to-month increase surprised marginally to the upside, but the key story is of a declining year-over-year trend. Core inflation, which is a lagging indicator of the business cycle, slowed again, in line with the decline in services and market prices inflation.
Yesterday's Brazilian industrial production data were downbeat.
Brazil's economy likely will bounce back during the second half of this year and into 2018, after the second quarter was marred by political risk.
LatAm financial markets have performed solidly in the first sessions of the year, with most regional currencies trading more strongly against the USD.
LatAm markets and central banks have been paying close attention to developments in the U.S. The FOMC left rates on hold on Wednesday, as expected, but underscored its core view that inflation will rise in the medium-term, requiring gradual increases in the fed funds rate.
The recovery of some key commodity prices, policy action in China, and stronger expectations that the U.S. Fed will start hiking rates later during the year, have helped reduce volatility in LatAm financial markets. Oil prices have rise by around 20% year-to-date, iron ore prices are up about 60% and copper has risen by 7%.
Data released yesterday confirm that Brazil's recovery has continued over the second half of the year, supported by steady capex growth and rebounding household consumption.
The manufacturing indexes for January showed a small improvement for the biggest economies in LatAm: Brazil and Mexico. In Brazil, the PMI manufacturing index increased marginally to 50.7 in December from 50.2 in November, thanks to stronger output and new orders components, which rose together for the first time in ten months.
Friday's Brazilian industrial production data were relatively positive. Output was unchanged month-to-month in May, and April's marginal gain was revised slightly higher. The flat monthly reading pushed year-over-year growth in output up marginally to -8.9% from -9.1%. May production rose month-to-month in two of the four major categories.
President Trump tweeted yesterday that he wants to re-introduce tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from Brazil and Argentina, after accusing these economies of intentionally devaluing their currencies, hurting the competitiveness of U.S. farmers.
While we were away, EM growth prospects and risk appetite deteriorated, due mainly to rising geopolitical risks and Turkey's currency crisis.
Brazil's political situation is steadily improving, with the latest events proving a step in the right direction.
Brazilian political risk remains high but, as we have argued in previous Monitors, it is unlikely to deter policymakers from further near-term monetary easing. The political crisis, however, does suggest that the COPOM will act cautiously, waiting until the latest storm passes before acting more aggressively, despite ongoing good news on the inflation front.
Brazil's April CPI data this week showed that inflation pressures remain weak, supporting the BCB's focus on the downside risks to economic activity. Wednesday's report revealed that the benchmark IPCA inflation index rose 0.1% unadjusted month-to-month in April, marginally below market expectations.
Inflation in Brazil ended 2017 well under control, despite December's modest overshoot. This will allow the BCB to cut rates further in Q1 to underpin the economic recovery.
Friday's inflation report for Brazil confirmed that inflation is rapidly falling towards the BCB's target range, helping to make the case for stepping up the pace of monetary easing to 50bp at the Copom's January meeting.
Recent inflation numbers across the biggest economies in LatAm have surprised to the downside, strengthening the case for further monetary easing.
The latest CPI data in Brazil confirm that inflationary pressures eased considerably last month. Inflation fell to 8.5% year-over-year in September, from 9.0% in August, as a result of both lower market- set and regulated inflation.
With less than a month before the first round of votes on October 7 in Brazil's presidential election, markets are dissecting both the polls and speeches of the candidates and their economic advisors.
Investors will increase their focus on exchange rates as the US presidential election and the Fed's next rate hike approach. Markets are becoming concerned that a surge in the USD could trigger another spike in LatAm currency volatility, depressing the good year- to-date performance of most local market assets.
The Brazilian central bank cut its benchmark Selic interest rate by 50bp to 4.50% on Wednesday night.
Brazilian inflation has been well under control in the past few months, still laying the ground for rates to remain on hold for the foreseeable future.
The recession in Brazilian consumers' spending continues, but the severity of the pain is easing. Retail sales plunged 0.9% month-to-month in March, pushing the year-over-rate down to -5.7%, from a revised -4.2% in February. The March headline likely was depressed by the early Easter.
Brazil's outlook is still improving at the margin, as positive economic signals mix with relatively encouraging political news.
The Brazilian Central Bank's policy board, COPOM, left the Selic rate at 6.50% on Wednesday, as widely expected.
LatAm currencies have suffered in recent weeks. Each country has its own story, so the currency hit has been uneven, but all LatAm economies share one factor: Fear of the start of a Fed tightening cycle.
Brazil's central bank started the year firing on all cylinders. The Copom surprised markets on Wednesday by delivering a bold 75bp rate cut, bringing the Selic rate down to 13.0%. In October and November, the Copom eased by only 25bp, but inflation is now falling rapidly and consistently. The central bank said in its post-meeting communiqué that conditions have helped establish a "new rhythm of easing", assuming inflation expectations hold steady.
Yesterday's economic data in Brazil suggest that retailers suffered in the second quarter, hit by the effect of the truckers' strike, but private consumption remains somewhat resilient.
Inflation is under control in most LatAm economies, and we expect headline rates to remain close to current levels in the very near term.
The latest IPCA inflation data in Brazil show the year-over-year rate fell to 8.8% in June from 9.3% in May. This is the slowest pace since May 2015, with inflation pulled lower by declines across all major components, except food. Indeed, food prices were the main driver of the modest 0.4% unadjusted monthto-month increase, rising by 0.7%, following a 0.8% jump in May. The year-over-year rate rose to 12.8% in June from 12.4%.
Yesterday's first estimate of full-year 2016 GDP in Mexico indicates that growth gathered momentum over the second half of last year. But risks are now tilted to the downside, following the U.S. election. GDP rose 0.6% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, after a 1.0% increase in Q3. Growth was much slower in the firs t half, as shown in our char t below.
Mexico's central bank, Banxico, capitulated to the sharp MXN depreciation yesterday and increased interest rates by 50bp, for the second time this year, in a bid to support the currency. Raising rates to 4.25% was a brave step, as the economic recovery remains sluggish, thanks mostly to external headwinds. The hike demonstrates that policymakers are extremely worried about the decline in the MXN and its lagged effect on inflation.
Data released on Wednesday confirmed that the Brazilian economy was relatively resilient in Q1. Leading indicators suggest that it will do well in Q2 and Q3, but downside risks are rising.
External conditions continue to favour Brazil. The recovery in domestic demand in the world's major economies, particularly the rebound in business investment, has driven a gradual revival of global exports.
The BCB's Copom kept Brazil's Selic rate at 14.25% this week, as expected. The brief accompanying communiqué was very similar to the January statement, saying that after assessing the outlook for growth and inflation, and "the current balance of risks, considering domestic and, mainly, external uncertainties", the Copom decided to keep the Selic rate at a nine-year high, without bias.
Brazil's economic news this week remained bleak at the headline level, but some of the details were less terrible in than in recent months. Industrial production fell by a worse-than-expected 11.9% year-over-year in December, marginally up from the 12.4% drop in November.
Brazil's recession has been severe, triggered by the downturn in the commodity cycle, which revealed the underlying structural weaknesses in the economy. This set off an acute shock in domestic demand, but it has bottomed in recent months and we now expect a gradual recovery to emerge.
Brazil's GDP growth slowed to just 0.1% quarter- on-quarter in Q4, from a downwardly-revised 0.5% in Q3.
Brazilian assets were hit in Q3 by global external challenges, while domestic fundamentals gradually improved.
Brazil's economy remains mired in a renewed slowdown, and low--albeit temporarily rising-- inflation, which is allowing the BCB to keep interest rates on hold, at historic lows.
Brazil's March report reinforced recent evidence indicating that inflation is decelerating. The headline CPI surprised to the downside again, slowing to a nine-month low of 9.4% year-over-year from 10.4% in February. The index rose 2.6% quarter-to-quarter in Q1, well below the 3.8% increase in the same period last year.
Political risks in Brazil recently have simmered alongside the modest cyclical recovery, but they are now increasing. President Michel Temer's future remains hard to predict as circumstances change by the day.
Brazil's industrial sector had a relatively good start to the year. Data on Wednesday showed that production fell 0.1% month-to-month in January, less than markets expected, and the year-over-year rate rose to 1.4%, after a 0.1% drop in December.
Survey data have been signalling a resilient Brazilian economy in the last few months, despite the broader challenges facing LatAm and the global economy in 2019.
The first round of Brazil's presidential elections will take place this Sunday, followed by a probable runoff on October 28.
With the exception of Mexico, November inflation was or below expectations in LatAm. Mexico's overshoot increases the likelihood that Banxico will hike its reference rate at the next board meeting on December 20.
Inflation in Brazil Ended 2019 Above the BCB's Target; 2020 will be Fine
The Fed rate hike on Wednesday is fully priced in to LatAm markets, so we expect no significant immediate reaction when the trigger is pulled. But as markets gradually come around to our view that future U.S. rate risk is to the upside, markets will come under renewed pressure.
Brazil's December industrial production and labour reports, released this week, confirmed that the recovery remained solidly on track at the end of last year.
Brazil's central bank again matched expectations on Wednesday, cutting the Selic rate by 100 basis points to 10.25%, without bias. The COPOM s aid that a "moderate reduction of the pace of monetary easing" would be "adequate".
Brazil's economic data last week were appalling. The IPCA-15 price index rose 1.3% month-to-month, the fastest pace in 12 years, pushing the annual rate to 7.4% in mid-February from 6.7% in mid-January,well above the 6.5% upper bound of the BCB's target range.
Evidence of a modest upturn in Brazilian consumers' spending continues to mount. Retail sales rose 1.0% month-to-month in April, pushing the year-over-rate up to +1.9%, from an upwardly-revised -3.2% in March.
LatAm assets and currencies had a bad November, due to global trade war concerns, the USD rebound and domestic factors.
Political risk in Brazil has increased substantially, following reports that President Temer was taped in an alleged cover-up scheme involving the jailed former Speaker of the House. If the tapes are verified, calls for Mr. Temer to face impeachment will mount.
Sunday 28th will bring closure to an extraordinary presidential election campaign in Brazil.
Brazil's September industrial production report, released yesterday, confirmed the message from survey data that the sector stabilized towards the end of summer. Output rose 0.5 month-to-month, and August output was revised up by 0.3 percentage points.
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff was removed from office on Wednesday, following an impeachment trial triggered by allegations that Ms. Rousseff used "creative" accounting techniques to disguise Brazil's growing budget deficit, ahead of her re-election in 2014. The Senate voted 61-20 to convict Ms. Rousseff; only 54 votes were needed to oust her. For Ms. Rousseff's leftist Workers' Party, her removal marks the end of 13 years in power.
The Brazilian Central Bank's policy board-- COPOM--voted unanimously on Wednesday to cut the Selic rate by 50bp to 5.50%.
Brazil's current account data last week provided further evidence of stabilisation in the economy, despite the modest headline deterioration. The unadjusted current account deficit increased marginally to USD5.1B in January, from USD4.8B in January 2016, but the underlying trend remains stable, at about 1.3% of GDP. Our first two charts show that the overall deficit began to stabilize in mid-2016, as the rate of improvement in the trade balance slowed, reflecting the easing of the domestic recession.
LatAm investors' concerns about U.S. monetary policy expectations and the broad direction of the USD should on the back burner until the Fed hikes again, likely in September. This will leave room for country-specific drivers to take centre stage. That should support Mexico's MXN, which already has risen 14% year-to-date against the USD, erasing its losses after the US election last November.
This week economic data highlighted the severity of Brazil's economic recession and the huge challenges it will face next year to return to growth. The recession further deepened in the third quarter with the economic activity index--a monthly proxy for GDP--surprising, once again, to the downside in September. The index fell 0.5% month-to-month, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 6.2%, the steepest fall on record. The series is very volatile on a monthly basis, but the underlying trend remains grim.
Local policy drivers have remained in the spotlight in Brazil, against a background of important recent global events.
Brazilian inflation is off to a good start this year, and we think more good news is coming. The January mid-month IPCA-15 index rose an unadjusted 0.3% month-to-month, a tenth less than expected. This was the smallest gain for January since 1994 and the sixth consecutive month in which the number came in below expectations.
Brazil's April economic activity index--a monthly proxy for GDP--surprised to the downside, again. The IBC-BR index was unchanged month-to-month but contracted a dreadful 4.8% year-over-year, down from a revised 3.2% contraction in March. These results imply Q2 GDP of about -1.9% quarter-on-quarter, much worse than the 0.2% contraction in Q1. The release offers no details, but the report signals a continued steep, steady deterioration.
Brazil is back on global investors' radar screens. Financial market metrics capture a relatively robust bullish tone, especially since the presidential election.
Brazil's recession is getting uglier. Real GDP in Brazil fell 1.7% quarter-on-quarter in Q3, much worse than expected, though marginally less terrible than the downwardly revised 2.1% contraction in Q2. Year-over-year, the economy plunged by 4.5% in the third quarter, down from -3.0% in Q2, and -2.5% in the first half. The disappointment was widespread in Q3; though rising mining output was a positive, the underlying trend in mining is still falling. The key story here, though, is that the economy has sunk into its worst slump since the Great Depression.
Brazil's monetary authority adopted a neutral tone and kept its main rate on hold at 6.5% at its monetary policy meeting on Wednesday, surprising investors.
February's COPOM meeting minutes again signalled that Brazil's central bank will stick with its cautious approach to monetary policy.
Private consumption remains resilient in Brazil and recent data suggest that growth will continue over the coming months.
Volatility and risk will remain high in L atAm for the foreseeable future. President-elect Donald Trump's uncertain foreign policies could have a considerable impact on LatAm economies in the months and years ahead.
After recent interventionist moves and plans in Mexico from AMLO's incoming administration and his political party, uncertainty and soured sentiment are the name of the game.
In a busy week in Brazil, ongoing signals of feeble economic activity have strengthened our forecast for GDP growth of just 1.0% this year, below the 1.3% consensus forecast.
Data released last week in Brazil reinforced our view of a modest, final, interest rate cut this week, despite the recent strength of the USD and volatility in global markets.
The two biggest economies in the region have taken divergent paths in recent months, with the economic recovery strengthening in Brazil, but slowing sharply in Mexico.
Chile's central bank left rates unchanged on Tuesday for the fourth consecutive month, as recent data confirmed the sluggish pace of the economic recovery and inflation edges down closer to the target range. In the statement accompanying the decision, the BCCh kept its tightening bias, saying that the normalisation of monetary policy needs to continue at a data-dependent pace, in order to achieve its 3% target.
Evidence of slowing growth in Brazil consumers' spending continues to mount.
Economic data in Brazil over the second quarter were relatively positive, and June reports released in recent weeks, coupled with leading indicators for July, are encouraging.
Politics remain centre-stage in Brazil, despite positive news on the economic front. President Michel Temer's government continues to advance pension reform, despite the tight calendar and concerns about his political capital. But volatility is on the rise.
Economic data released on Wednesday underscored that Brazil was struggling at the end of the first quarter, strengthening our case that Q1 GDP fell 0.2% quarter-on-quarter, the first contraction since Q4 2016.
External conditions are becoming more demanding for LatAm economies, with global trade tensions intensifying in recent weeks.
Brazil's consumer sluggishness in Q3 and early Q4 eased in November.
The IBC-Br index, a monthly proxy for Brazil's GDP--rose 0.5% month-to-month in November, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 2.8%, from an upwardly-revised 3.1% in October.
Brazil's consumer resilience in Q3 continued to November, but retail sales undershot market expectations, suggesting that the sector is not yet accelerating and that downside risks remain.
Two key points can be extracted from the minutes of the last BCB meeting, when policymakers increased the Selic interest rate by 50bp to 12.75%. First, the bank recognized that the balance of risks to inflation has deteriorated, due to the huge adjustment of regulated prices and the BRL's depreciation, but it specifically referred only to "this year" in the communiqué.
The Brazilian central bank left its benchmark Selic interest rate on hold at 6.5% on Wednesday night and confirmed our view that policymakers will stand pat for the foreseeable future, provided the BRL remains stable and Mr. Bolsonaro is able to push forward his reform agenda.
Brazil's headline CPI has been well above the upper limit of the BCB's target zone since January 2015. We expect this situation will continue for some time, due to the lagged effect of last year's sharp increases in regulated prices, El Niño, the BRL's sell-off in 2015, and, especially, widespread price indexation.
Brazil's government announced on Monday spending cuts and new tax increases, aiming to generate a 0.7% of GDP primary surplus, and so restore market confidence and avoid further credit rating downgrades. The plan is to reduce expenditure by BRL26B next year--or 0.4% of GDP--mainly through freezing public sector salaries and slashing social projects. These measures, especially the latter, will likely meet strong resistance in Congress. The salary freeze has more of a chance of passing, but reducing or closing some Ministries is a cost-cutting exercise with an extremely high political price.
Brazil's central bank is in a very delicate situation. The economy is on the verge of another recession, but at the same time the BRL is falling, inflation expectations are rising and the inflation rate is overshooting. Fiscal policy is also tightening to restore macro stability magnifying the squeeze on growth.
Brazil's recovery has been steady in recent months, and Q1 likely will mark the end of the recession. The gradual recovery of the industrial and agricultural sectors has been the highlight, thanks to improving external demand, the lagged effect of the more competitive BRL, and the more stable political situation, which has boosted sentiment.
While we were out, Brazil's Monetary Policy Committee--Copom-- increased the Selic rate by 50bp to 14.25% on July 29th. The short statement indicated that the decision was unanimous and without bias. But it also signaled that the Copom is ready to end the tightening cycle if the data and, especially, the BRL, permit.
In recent weeks Brazilian central bank officials have reinforced their message that they will continue fighting inflation with "determination and perseverance". CPI inflation is failing to subside, at least at the headline level, where the latest readings are very disappointing, and expectations have remained stubbornly high. And the BRL has fallen 13% year-to-date, posing further inflation threats ahead. All these factors mean that the BCB will increase its main interest rate yet again in July.
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