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The Eurozone's external surplus is on track for a record-breaking year in 2016. Data yesterday showed that the current account surplus rose to €28.4B in October, from €27.7B in September. The trade surplus in goods fell, but this drag was offset by a higher services and income surplus, and a lower current transfers deficit.
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.
The U.K.'s political situation is extremely fluid, so it would be risky automatically to assume that the U.K. is heading for Brexit. Although the Prime Minister has resigned, his attempt to hold out until October to begin the formal process of exiting the E.U. signals that he may be seeking to engineer a revised deal, or at least to force his successor to make the momentous decision of whether to trigger Article 50, to begin the leaving process.
Retail sales in Mexico plunged at the end of Q4, but we think households' spending will continue to contribute to GDP growth in the first quarter.
Brazil's external accounts were a bright spot last year, again.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's testimony this week reinforced our view that the first U.S. rate hike will be in June. The transition to higher U.S. rates will require an unpleasant adjustment in asset prices in some LatAm countries.
According to Brazil's mid-August inflation reading, which is a preview of the IPCA index, overall inflation pressures are easing. But some price stickiness remains, due to inertia and temporary shocks, despite the severity of the recession and the rapid deterioration of the labour market in recent months.
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.
The Colombian economy--the star of the previous economic cycle in LatAm--is now slowing significantly, due mostly to strong external headwinds. Exports plunged by 40% year-over-year in January, down from -29% in December, with all of the main categories contracting in the worst performance since 1980.
Brazil's current account deficit rose to USD6.9B in April, from USD5.8B in March. The deficit totaled USD100.2B, or 4.5% of GDP on a 12-month rolling basis, marginally better than 4.6% in March; the underlying trend is flat. The services and income accounts improved slightly compared to April last year.
Mexican inflation fell sharply in the first two weeks of January, dipping by 0.2% from two weeks earlier, thanks to lower energy prices and a reduction in long-distance phone tariffs. Telecom reform explains about 15bp of the headline reduction.
Brazil's unadjusted current account surplus soared to USD2.9B in May, its highest level since 2006, from USD1.1B in May 2016.
Banxico's likely will deliver the widely-anticipated rate hike this Thursday. Policymakers' recent actions suggests that investors should expect a 50bp increase, in line with TIIE pric ing and the market consensus. The balance of risks to inflation has deteriorated markedly on the back of the "gasolinazo", a sharp increase in regulated gasoline prices imposed to raise money and attract foreign investment.
Last week's news that output per hour jumped by 0.9% quarter-on-quarter in Q3--the biggest rise since Q2 2011--has fanned hopes that the underlying trend finally is improving.
Britain's productivity problem has been building under the surface for years, but it is set to be more pertinent now that the economy is close to full employment.
The external environment was relatively benign for China in July. The euro and yen appreciated as markets began to question how long policy can remain on their current emergency settings.
Yesterday's final May PMI data in the Eurozone confirmed the strength of the cyclical upturn. The composite PMI was unchanged at 56.8, in line with the initial estimate.
Data released on Monday showed that Chile's external accounts remained under pressure at the start of the year, and trade tensions mean that it will be harder to finance the gap.
Investors in Mexico likely will focus early this week on yesterday's gubernatorial election results in Nayarit, Coahuila and the State of Mexico. The latter is especially important, because it is viewed as a possible guide to the 2018 presidential election.
The deterioration of global risk appetite and, in particular, domestic politics have put the Brazilian real under severe pressure in recent weeks.
With the MXN up more than 7% since the low of 21.9 against the dollar in January, investors are pondering just how high the Mexican currency can go. We believe that the MXN will continue to hover around its recent range, 20.1-to-20.5, in the near term, but will come under pressure again as protectionist policies in the U.S. take real shape in the spring or summer.
Japan's official seasonally adjusted current account surplus rose to ¥2.27T in August from ¥2.03T in July. But we don't trust the seasonals, and our adjustment model shows the surplus fell slightly, to ¥1.91T in August. A further small decline likely is coming in Q4.
Chinese exports grew by just 5.5% in dollar terms year-over-year in August, down from 7.2% in July. Export growth continues to trend down, with a rise of just 0.2% in RMB terms in the three months to August compared to the previous three months, significantly slower than the 4.8% jump at the p eak in January.
Over the last few months we have started to see hard evidence of Brazil's deceleration, and, as we have argued in previous Monitors, the slowdown is now set to become more visible. Over the coming weeks, markets will focus on whether Brazil is already in recession, its likely severity, and how the country will get out of this mess.
German net exports were treading water at the start of the fourth quarter. The seasonally adjusted trade surplus slipped to €17.4B in October, from a revised €17.7B in September, constrained by a 1.3% month-to-month rise in imports, which offset a 0.7% increase in exports.
China's FX reserves were little changed in June, at $3,112B.
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 U.K.'s still-large current account deficit makes us nervous that sterling will need to depreciate further over the medium-term and would collapse if Brexit talks fail, causing international investors to take flight.
Overall, the Chinese October data paint a picture of continued weakness in trade, with PPI inflation still high but the rate of increase finally slowing.
Argentina's Recovery Continues, but the Rebound is Facing Setbacks
The sharp downtrend in commodity prices in recent months is alarming from a LatAm perspective.
Data on Friday showed that the EZ current account surplus fell to €25.3B in September, from a revised €29.2B in August. The trade and services surpluses were unchanged, but the income balance slipped after rising in the previous months.
Construction in the Eurozone had a decent start in the third quarter. Output rose 0.5% month-to- month in July, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 1.9% from 2.8% in June.
Hopes that the economy will not slow over the next year are largely pinned on the idea that net trade will be boosted by the drop in sterling. The pound has tracked sideways over the last two months and is about 15% below its trade-weighted peak in November 2015.
Construction in the euro area stumbled at the end of last year. Output fell 0.2% month-to-month in December, but the year-over-year rose to 2.4%, from a revised 1.6% in November.
Final inflation data yesterday confirmed Eurozone inflation pressures are still low. Inflation rose to 0.2% year-over-year in December from 0.1% in November, lifted by easing deflation in energy prices. Base effects likely will lift energy price inflation in January and February, but the year-over-year rate will dip in Q2, if the oil price remains depressed. Food inflation fell in December due to a decline in unprocessed food prices, and we see further downside in Q1. Core inflation was unchanged, with the key surprise that services inflation fell to 1.1% from 1.2% in November. We think this dip will be temporary, however, and our first chart shows that risks to services inflation are tilted to the upside.
The ECB conformed to expectations today. The main refi rate was left unchanged at 0.00%, and the deposit and marginal lending facility rates also were unchanged, at -0.4% and 0.25% respectively. Similarly, the ECB stuck with the changes to QE made in December. Purchases of €80B per month will continue until March, after which the pace will be reduced to €60B per month and continue until December.
Banxico's Quarterly Inflation Report--QIR--for Q4 2016, published this week, confirmed that the monetary authority is concerned about the slowing pace of economic activity and rising inflation pressures. Banxico noted that signs of a recovery have emerged in external demand, but it also pointed out that the Trump administration might impose policies which would hit FDI flows into Mexico.
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