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141 matches for " latam":
The U.K.'s unexpected vote for Brexit means a stronger USD for the foreseeable future, pressure on EM currencies and increasing risk premiums. LatAm fundamentals will a sideshow for some time. The focus will be on the currencies, which will be the main shock absorbers.
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.
LatAm's economies are gradually rebounding, boosted by easier monetary policy in most countries, falling inflation, and a relatively calm external backdrop.
In recent weeks LatAm's currencies and stock markets, together with key commodity prices, have risen as financial markets' expectations for a rate increase by the Fed this year have faded. The COP has risen 8.5% over the last month, the MXN is up 2.5%, the CLP has climbed 1.4% and the PEN has been practically stable against the USD. The minutes of the Federal Reserve's latest meeting added strength to this market's view, showing that policymakers postponed an interest rate hike as they worried about a global slowdown, particularly China, the strong USD and the impact of the drop in stock prices.
LatAm economies this year have faced a tough external environment of subdued commodity prices, weaker Chinese growth, the rising USD, and the impending Fed lift-off. At the domestic level, lower public spending, low confidence, and economic policy reform have clashed with above-target inflation, which has prevented central bankers from loosening monetary policy in order to mitigate the external and domestic headwinds. In these challenging circumstances, LatAm growth generally continues to disappoint, though performance is mixed.
LatAm markets reacted well to the U.S. Fed's decision to increase the funds rate by 25bp, to 1-to-1¼%, on Wednesday. Currencies moved only slightly after the decision and asset markets were relatively stable. Yesterday, some currencies retreated marginally as investors digested the relatively hawkish message from the Fed and Chair Yellen's press conference.
LatAm currencies and stock markets have suffered badly in recent weeks, but Monday turned into a massacre with the MSCI stock index for the region falling close to 4%. Markets rebounded marginally yesterday, but remain substantially lower than their April-May peaks. Each economy has its own story, so the market hit has been uneven, but all have been battered as China's stock market has crashed. The downward spiral in commodity prices--oil hit almost a seven-year low on Monday--is making the economic and financial outlook even worse for LatAm.
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.
The US employment data last week reduced further the likelihood of a June Fed rate increase. In turn, this changes the likely timing of the normalization process in some LatAm economies. Our Chief Economist, Ian Shepherdson, expects the Fed to start its normalization process in July or September; the strength of the employment data will prevent any postponement beyond the third quarter.
External conditions are becoming more demanding for LatAm economies, with global trade tensions intensifying in recent weeks.
We look for the Fed to increase rates today by 25bp to a range of 0.25%-to-0.50%. The FOMC will likely say that policy remains very accommodative and that rate hikes will be slow. Unfortunately, this will provide only temporary relief to LatAm. According to our Chief Economist, Ian Shepherdson, faster wage gains next year in the U.S. will disrupt the Fed's intention to move gradually. If wages accelerate as quickly as we expect, the Fed will need to raise rates more rapidly than it currently expects, which is also faster than markets anticipate. That, in turn, will put EM markets and currencies under further pressure.
Selling pressure in LatAm markets after Donald Trump's election victory eased when the dollar rally paused earlier this week. Yesterday, the yield on 10- year Mexican bonds slipped from its cycle high, and rates in other major LatAm economies also dipped slightly.
Most central banks in LatAm have ended the year in a relatively comfortable position; their economies are improving and inflation is under control or even falling.
Commodity prices have started the year under further downward pressure. This is yet more negative news for LatAm, as most of the countries have failed to diversify, instead relying on oil or copper for a large share of exports and, critically, tax revenue. Venezuela is the biggest loser in the region from the oil hit, and, together with the worsening political and economic crisis, it has pushed the country even closer to the verge of collapse, threatening its debt payments. Venezuela's central bank last week released economic data for the first time since 2014, showing that inflation spiralled to 141% and that the economy shrank 4.5% in the first nine months of last year.
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.
The medium-term outlook in most LatAm economies is improving, though economic activity is likely to remain anaemic in the near term. The gradual recovery in commodity prices is supporting resource economies, while the post-election surge in global stock prices has boosted confidence. But country-specific domestic considerations are equally relevant; the growth stories differ across the region.
Multiple factors have shaken LatAm financial markets this week. China's market turmoil, commodity price oscillations, currency volatility, and political mayhem in every corner of the region, have all conspired against markets. But market chaos has also driven some central banks to rethink their monetary policy plans. For EM, in particular for LatAm, the stance of the Federal Reserve is key, given the region's close ties to the U.S., and the dollar.
The U.K.'s unexpected decision to vote to leave the E.U. will have serious ramifications for the global economy, and LatAm economies are unlikely to emerge unscathed. It is very difficult to quantify the short-term effects due to the intricacies of the financial transmission channels into the real economy.
LatAm assets have struggled in recent days as it has become clear that the Fed will hike next week. But we don't expect currencies to collapse, as domestic fundamentals are improving and the broader external outlook is relatively benign.
LatAm financial markets have performed solidly in the first sessions of the year, with most regional currencies trading more strongly against the USD.
LatAm assets have done well in recent weeks on the back of upbeat investor risk sentiment, low volatility in developed markets and a relatively benign USD. A less confrontational approach from the U.S. administration to trade policy has helped too.
As it became clear that Donald Trump would beat Hillary Clinton to win the U.S. presidency, EM currencies came under severe pressure, fearing his economic and immigration policies. Some of the initial pressure is easing as markets digest the news and following Mr. Trump's conciliatory tone in his victory speech. But the proposals have been made and the MXN and other key LatAm assets likely will remain very stressed in the near term.
The big four LatAm economies, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Chile, released September inflation this week and the data showed three clear--and contrasting--trends. Inflation is accelerating in the Andes, whereas the headline rate hit another historic low in Mexico. Inflation in Brazil is still the depressing outlier, with annual CPI inflation hovering around 9.5% year-over-year in recent months, well above the rates of its regional peers. But it is close to peaking, at last.
Latam activity and markets are improving......but volatility will rise in Q4 due to global factors
Global economic conditions have been improving for LatAm over recent quarters.
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 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.
Consumption remains an important source of economic growth in LatAm.
A mix of political and economic events have triggered outflows of capital from emerging markets this year. Tensions in Europe, due to the "Grexit" saga, together with China's slowdown and concerns about Fed lift-off have weighed on EM flows. In recent months, though, some of the pressure on EM currencies has eased as the markets have come to expect fewer U.S. rate hikes in the near term.
Industrial production in Mexico surged 2.6% year-over-year in February, up from a 0.8% increase in January. A favourable calendar effect, however, is a key part of this story. Once adjusted for the leap year, which added an extra working day, industrial production rose only 0.8%, down from a 1.6% expansion in January.
The global economy is heading towards a new scenario, triggered by the impending start of the monetary policy normalization process in the U.S. In some major economies, notably the Eurozone, the Fed's actions will not derail or even jeopardize the cyclical economic upturn.
The sell-off in equity markets and increases in volatility have put EM assets under pressure. EM equities and bonds, however, have been outperforming their U.S. and global market counterparts.
Mexico's economy continues to withstand several headwinds, especially the sharp currency depreciation--shown in our first chart--falling commodity prices, and the tough external environment. The country is still one of the economic bright spots in the region, thanks to its resilient domestic demand. June retail sales rose 5.4% year-over-year, well above expectations, and up from 4.1% in May. The underlying trend is positive, averaging 4.8% in the second quarter, well above its 2014 pace.
Weakness across EM asset markets returned after the April FOMC minutes, released last week, suggested that a June rate hike is a real possibility. The risks posed by Brexit, however, is still a very real barrier to Fed action, with the vote coming just eight days after the FOMC meeting.
The Fed deferred, but did not cancel, the start of its rate normalization last week. As a consequence, December is now the most likely meeting for the first hike. The Fed's core view of the U.S. economy remains the same, but policymakers want a bit more time to see how global developments affect the U.S. Our Chief Economist, Ian Shepherdson, expects the strength of the employment data, better Chinese numbers and calm financial markets to prevent any further postponement beyond Q4.
A long period of extremely accommodative U.S. monetary policy generated sizable capital inflows and asset price appreciation in EM countries.
We expect growth in Latin America--except Mexico--to improve in 2017, especially during the second half...
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The tumultuous political and economic crises in Brazil continue to feed off each other, grabbing most of the LatAm headlines. Sentiment will remain depressed, and volatility and uncertainty will persist, hampering any real signs of stabilization in the near-term. The Pacific Alliance countries, by contrast, managed to grow at relatively solid rates during the first half of this year, after absorbing the hit from falling commodity prices.
Uncertainty about the U.S. economic and political outlook, following Donald Trump's presidential win, likely will cast a long shadow over EM in general and LatAm in particular. On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump argued for tearing up NAFTA and building a border wall.
The Latamrecovery continues...but the em financial rout has dented expectations
LatAm fundamentals are improving...but shaky commodity markets highlight threats
LatAm economic activity is stabilizing...but the recovery will be modest in Q3.
Latam started the second half strongly...But risks remain, politics in particular
Latam's economies are improving...but political risks are a big threat
Inflation is under control in most LatAm economies, and we expect headline rates to remain close to current levels in the very near term.
Colombia's peso has been one of the most battered currencies in LatAm this year, due mainly to the sharp fall in oil prices, the country's primary export. The COP has dropped about 23% this year against the USD. At the same time, other temporary factors, most notably the impact of El Niño on food prices, have done a great deal of inflation damage too. October's food prices increased 1.4% month-to-month, pushing the year-over-year rate up to 8.8% from an average of 6.6% in the first half of the year. Overall inflation has jumped to 5.9% in October from 3.8% in January, forcing BanRep's board to act aggressively.
LatAm, particularly Mexico, has dealt with Donald Trump's presidency better than expected thus far. Indeed, the MXN rose 10.7% against the USD in Q1, the stock market has recovered after its initial post-Trump plunge, and risk metrics have eased significantly.
This week's Monetary Policy Committee meetings in Chile, Mexico and Colombia look set to dominate market events in LatAm. On Friday, we expect Mexico's Banxico to keep rates on hold at 3.75%, after its unexpected 50bp increase in mid-February. At that time, the board cited growing concerns about financial markets, Mexico's weakened currency, and the country's fiscal situation, as reasons for its move.
Colombia's sluggish growth and near-term economic outlook resembles that of most other LatAm economies. Domestic demand is weak, credit conditions are tight, and confidence is depressed. The medium term outlook, however, is perking up, slowly.
Last week's events highlighted the seriously challenging global environment for LatAm equities and currencies. Trading in Chinese shares was stopped twice early last week, after falls greater than 7% of the CSI 300 index reverberated around the world. Markets were calmer on Friday but the volatility nevertheless reminded investors that LatAm's economies are floating in rough waters and their resilience will be put to the test again this year. The Fed's policy normalization, the unwinding of the leverage in EM, the continued slowdown of the Chinese economy, low commodity prices and currency depreciation are all real threats across the continent.
LatAm's economies are starting to expand at a relatively healthy pace, inflation is more or less under control and near-term growth prospects are positive.
EM risk sentiment remains grim as the Trump administration dispenses protectionist trade measures. LatAm's biggest economies, Brazil and Mexico, have been hit the hardest, with their currencies falling 3.3% and 2.2% respectively in the last week, the most in the EM world.
External Conditions Are Helping Latam...But Political Risks Will Constrain The Rebound
This week's Fed meeting eased many LatAm investors' minds, fuelling rallies in most of the region's currencies. We think the U.S. labour market is going through a genuine soft patch but will regain momentum over the coming months, prompting policymakers to hike rates in September.
Latam's economies remain resilient...but global threats still loom
Politics will be the key factor in LatAm over the coming quarters, as presidential and legislative elections take place throughout the region.
It is still premature to make fundamental changes to our core views for the global or LatAm economy, following President Trump's plan to slap hefty tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, potentially escalating into a global trade war.
Latam's recovery continues...but external threats have increased lately
Three of the big LatAm economies-- Brazil, Colombia and Chile--released October inflation last week; the data are still showing the pass-through effects of currency depreciation during the first half of the year into prices, though, at different degrees. LatAm currencies have been hit by the weakness in commodity prices and negative sentiment towards EM generally.
LatAm domestic demand is stabilizing...fading political risk will help
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.
Chile's central bank, the BCCh, admitted defeat in the face of the inflationary effects of the CLP's depreciation, increasing interest rates by 25bp to 3.25% last Thursday, the first hike since mid-2011. Chile is the third LatAm economy in a month to increase rates in response to currency weakness, despite sluggish economic growth.
Inflation pressures in LatAm are moderating, and governments have been taking steps to pursue fiscal consolidation. These factors, coupled with a relatively favourable external environment, are providing policymakers with the opportunity to start relaxing monetary policy.
Latam started the year in low gear...but expect a gradual acceleration in Q2 and Q3
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.
LatAm markets reacted relatively well to the Fed's rate hike on Wednesday, which was largely priced-in. The markets' cool-headed reaction bodes well for Latam central banks. But it doesn't mean that the region is risk-free, especially as Mr. Trump's inauguration day draws near.
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%.
Andres Abadia named top Latam FX Forecaster for 2017 by Reuters
Last week's data supported our view that monetary policy across LatAm will continue to diverge in the short term. Brazil will have to prolong its monetary tightening cycle, while economies such as Colombia and Chile will remain on hold despite the recent slowdowns in their economic cycle.
Recent global developments lead us to intensify our focus on trade in LatAm.
August inflation surprised to the downside across most of LatAm, as food price surges proved transitory, and the lagged effect of the FX depreciations last year faded. Brazil appeared to be the exception last month, but the underlying trend in inflation is downwards.
More evidence indicating that the recovery in global industrial activity is underway and gaining momentum- has poured in. In particular, trade data from China, one of LatAm's biggest trading partners, was stronger than the market expected last month. Both commodity import and export volumes increased sharply in January, and this suggests better economic conditions for China's key trading partners.
The U.S. Presidential election will set the tone for LatAm's markets this week. Hillary Clinton's dwindling lead over Donald Trump in recent polls has unleashed pressure on EM assets.
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.
Industrial activity in LatAm, at least in the largest economies, is taking different paths.
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 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.
Survey data have been signalling a relatively resilient Brazilian economy in the last few months, despite intensified political risk, and hard data are beginning to confirm this story.
Domestic fundamentals are improving...despite rising political and protectionist threats
Activity in Colombia cooled at the end of the first quarter, in the face of many domestic and external headwinds. Retail sales, for example, plunged 2.9% in March after a 4.6% leap in February. The headline likely was depressed by the early Easter, as March had one fewer trading day than February.
Andean economies are gathering strength...while larger countries are facing mounting risks
Brazil's inflation rate is in double digits for the first time in 12 years. The benchmark IPCA price index rose 1.0% month-to-month in November, lifting the year-over-year rate to 10.5%, the highest since November 2003. The core IPCA increased 0.7% month-to-month, pushing the year-over-year rate in November up to 8.9% from 8.6% in October.
The busy electoral calendar that lies ahead for the region is beginning to come into focus. Colombia kicks off the process, followed by Mexico and Brazil.
Polls suggest that Ivan Duque has comfortably beat Gustavo Petro to become Colombia's president.
Pedro Kuczynski, the centre-right candidate of the Peruvians for Change party, won the presidential election held in June 5th. Mr. Kuczynski, a former finance minister and World Bank economist, defeated Ms. Keiko Fujimori, the candidate of the conservative Fuerza Popular party, and the daughter of jailed former leader Alberto Fujimori. Mr. Kuczynski's margin of victory over Ms. Fujimori was fewer than 43K votes, or just 0.2%.
Mexico's political panorama seems to be becoming clearer, at least temporarily. This should dispel some of the uncertainty that has been hanging over the economy in recent months.
Economic Activity Remains Sub-Par... But Downside Risks are Gradually Easing
Sentiment has been improving gradually in Mexico in recent weeks, reversing some of the severe deterioration immediately after the U.S. presidential election. Year-to-date, the MXN has risen 10.3% against the USD and the stock market is up by almost 8%. We think that less protectionist U.S. trade policy rhetoric than expected immediately after the election explains the turnaround.
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.
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.
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%.
Mexico's central bank, Banxico, last night capitulated again to the depreciation of the MXN and increased interest rates by 50bp, for the third time this year. This week's rebound in the currency was not enough to prevent action.
We have set out in recent Monitors the differences in the economic and political environment across Latin America, but the plunge in oil prices adds a new element to the analysis.
Last week, Banxico, the BCCh and the BCRP all left their reference rates on hold. Their currencies have remained relatively stable in recent months and inflation pressures are under control. In Mexico, Banxico has adopted a more discretionary approach, following two 50bp hikes this year.
On Monday we highlighted the grim state of the Brazilian industrial sector, where output fell by a huge 5.8% year-over-year in November. By contrast, the outlook for Mexico's industrial sector is much brighter.
Central banks in Chile, Peru, and Mexico hogged the market spotlight last week. Chile left its main interest rate at 3.0% on Thursday, for the fourth consecutive meeting.
While we were away, EM growth prospects and risk appetite deteriorated, due mainly to rising geopolitical risks and Turkey's currency crisis.
Central banks in Mexico, Colombia and Chile raised interest rates last week in tandem with the Fed, underscoring the almost mystical importance of the FOMC's actions in Latin America. In Colombia and Chile, their decisions were also helped by rising inflation pressures, due mainly to pass-through effects from currency depreciation.
No surprises from Chile's central bank last week, after leaving rates unchanged for the third consecutive month, in the light of recent data confirming the sluggish pace of the economic recovery. In the communiqué accompanying the decision, the BCCh kept their tightening bias, signaling that rates will rise in the near term.
Latin American markets have been relatively resilient this year, despite Fed tightening and high global political risks. The LACI index has risen more than 5% year-to-date, and the MSCI index has been trending higher since late last year.
Mexican manufacturing sector kicked off the year on a soft note, due mainly to the sharp drop in oil prices, and the sharp weather-induced slowdown in the U.S. Mexico's northern neighbor is its largest trading partner, by far, accounting for about 85% of total exports last year and close to 80% of total non-oil exports.
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.
Tomorrow, Mexico's INEGI will release its inflation report for the second half of May, which is of key importance for Banxico's monetary policy. The Bank, in particular governor Agustin Carstens, has said on many occasions that it will watch external conditions and their impact on consumer prices closely. We expect inflation to edge down to 2.9% year-over-year in May, thanks to a 0.1% increase in the second half.
The sharp drop in commodity prices, especially oil prices, has dampened the growth prospects for most countries in Latin America. But the most damage, so far, is in the currencies, which have dropped sharply.
Brazilian inflation hit its lowest rate in almost seven years in March, while Mexico's rate is the highest since July 2009. Yet we expect Mexico to tighten policy only modestly in the near term, while Brazil will ease rapidly.
Inflation appears no longer to be an issue for Mexican policymakers. The annual headline rate slowed to 3.0% year-over-year in February from 3.1% in January, in the middle of the central bank's target range, for the first time since May 2006.
Yesterday's CPI report in Mexico confirmed that headline inflation edged higher, to 5.0% in September from 4.9% in August, as the mid-month inflation index suggested.
Mexican inflation pressures eased towards the start of Q2. Inflation fell to 2.5% year-over-year in April from 2.6% in March, due to a sharp fall in energy inflation--as a result of the introduction of new electricity tariffs in the warm season--and a fall in the rate of increase of fresh food prices. Depressed energy prices will continue to constrain inflation in coming months, but base effects will reduce the drag later this year.
With the Mexican Elections on July 1st, our Chief Latam Economist Andres Abadia has received many questions about the possible outcomes and how this will affect the Mexican economy going forward.
LatAm currencies have risen against the USD so far this year, easing the upward pressure on imported good prices and allowing most central banks to cut interest rates. The first direct effects of stronger currencies should be felt by firms which import high-turnover intermediate or final goods.
Peru's central bank, the BCRP, admitted defeat again in the face of the inflationary effects of the PEN's depreciation and El Niño, increasing interest rates by 25bp to 3.75% last Thursday, following its 25bp increase in September. Peru is the third LatAm economy in the last few months to raise rates in response to currency weakness, despite sluggish economic growth. The key problem for Peru is that inflation has been trending higher since early 2013 and has remained stubbornly high, above 2.8% all this year. "Temporary" factors just keep on coming.
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.
LatAm economies are being battered by high inflation triggered by currency sell-offs and El Niño supply shocks, so rates have had to rise despite the challenging global environment. Peru's central bank, the BCRP, was forced to increase interest rates by 25bp to 4.25% last Thursday, the fourth hike in six months, as inflation is far above the central bank's 1-to-3% target range.
Colombia is one of the fastest growing economy in LatAm but over the last few quarters the collapse in oil prices, the depreciating currency--fearing higher U.S. interest rates--and rising inflation, have depressed confidence and dragged down economic activity.
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%.
Mexico has been one of LatAm's highlights in terms of financial markets and currency performance in recent months.
In yesterday's report we discussed the recent performance of current inflation and inflation expectations in the biggest economies in LatAm, highlighting that risks are tilted to the upside, given the recent FX sell-off and rising political and external risks.
Mexico's structural reforms, robust fundamentals, and its close ties to the U.S. should have conferred a degree of protection from the turmoil in EMs over the past year. But its markets have been hit as hard as other LatAm countries by the sell-off in global markets in recent weeks. The MXN fell about 5% against the USD in January alone, and has dropped by 20% over the last year.
China and commodities still hurting Latam....But Brazil has severe domestic woes
Colombia was likely the fastest growing economy in LatAm in 2015, but it is set to slow this year as monetary and fiscal policy are tightened, and commodity prices remain under pressure during the first half of the year, at least. Economic activity was surprisingly resilient during 2015, especially during the second half, despite the COP's sell-off, high inflation, and subdued consumer confidence.
Mexico is the only major LatAm economy not struggling with inflation. The headline April CPI fell 0.3% month-to-month, with the year-over-year rate unchanged at 3.1%, in the middle o f Banxico's 2-to-4% target. Inflationary pressures have been broadly absent since the beginning of the year, with the annual core CPI rate slowing to 2.3% in April from 2.5% in March.
Mexico's inflation remains the envy of LatAm, having consistently outperformed the rest of the region this year. Headline inflation slowed marginally to 2.5% in October, a record low and below the middle of Banxico's target, 2-to-4%, for the sixth straight month. The annual core rate increased marginally to 2.5% in October from 2.4% in September, but it remains below the target and its underlying trend is inching up only at a very slow pace. We expect it to remain subdued, closing the year around 2.7% year-over-year. Next year it will gradually increase, but will stay below 3.5% during the first half of 2016, given the lack of demand pressures and the ample output gap.
Colombia is one of the fastest growing economies in LatAm but over the last few quarters the country has been adjusting to the collapse in oil prices, the depreciating currency and rising inflation. But the slowdown, especially on the domestic side of the economy, has been less dramatic than expected, so far. Our main scenario is that the adjustment process to challenging external conditions will continue over the coming quarters.
Colombia is more vulnerable to falling oil prices than most other LatAm economies. That's why the COP has dropped by 20% since June, outpaced only by the rouble, which has problems beyond falling oil prices.
Mexico's inflation has been LatAm's odd one out over the last few years. In the decade through 2014, Mexico's inflation rate was broadly in sync with those of its regional fellows, as shown in our first chart.
The Fed's insistence this week that U.S. rates will rise only twice more this year helped to ease pressures on LatAm markets this week, particularly FX. The way is now clear for some LatAm central banks to cut interest rates rapidly over the coming months, even before U.S. fiscal and trade policy becomes clear. We expect the next Fed rate hike to come in June, as the labor market continues to tighten. If we're right, the free-risk window for LatAm rate cuts is relatively short.
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.
The data in LatAm have been all over the map in recent weeks. Brazil's cyclical stabilization continues, while Mexican numbers confirm that the economy has come under pressure in recent months.
While we were out, the economic news in LatAm was mostly positive. The main upside surprise came from Mexico, with the IGAE activity index--a monthly proxy for GDP--rising 2.9% year-over-year in August, up from 1.2% in July, and an average of 2.4% in Q2. A modest rebound was anticipated, but the headline was much better than we and the markets expected.
Colombia, the third largest economy in LatAm, has not been immune to the headwinds of the global economy since the financial crisis in 2008, though it remains one of the fastest growing economies in the region. GDP growth slowed sharply to just 1.7% in 2009, but that was still much better than the 1.2% contraction of the region as a whole.
The risk of higher US rates put LatAm currencies under pressure during the first half of the week, before the US FOMC meeting on Wednesday. But they recovered some ground yesterday, following the Fed's decision to leave rates on hold.
Banxico is one of the few central banks in LatAm to have hiked rates in 2016, and we expect it to remain relatively hawkish in the face of external risks.
Colombia was the fastest growing economy in LatAm last year but it faces major challenges. The collapse of oil prices--which account for about half of exports--the COP depreciation, rising inflation and Fed's impending monetary policy normalization, are dragging down economic activity and damaging confidence.
Donald Trump's inauguration on Friday might mark the beginning of a new era for both the U.S. and the global economy. For commodity-producing Latam countries, such as Chile, Peru and Colombia, attention will shift to Trump's proposed tax reforms, pro-business agenda and planning infrastructure spending. Mexico, on the other hand, will be grappling with Mr. Trump's trade and immigration policies.
Colombia and Peru have been among the top performers in LatAm currency markets in recent weeks, both rising above 4% against the dollar. Higher commodity prices seem to be driving the rally as domestic factors haven't changed dramatically.
Senior International Economist Andres Abadia on Latam currency risks.
Latin America Economic Monitor, Datanotes and Presentations
Early results project that Andrés Manuel López Obrador--AMLO--will become the new Mexican president with 53.4% of the votes, against Ricardo Anaya's 22.6%, and José Antonio Meade's 15.7%. AMLO has declared victory and thanked his opponents, who recognized his triumph.
Senior LatAm Economist Andres Abadia on Colombia
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