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336 matches for "Chile":
Chile's stronger-than-expected industrial production report for December, and less-ugly-than- feared retail sales numbers, confirmed that the hit from the Q4 social unrest on economic activity is disappearing.
Chile's central bank cut the country's main interest rate by 25bp to 3.25% last Thursday. The easing was expected, as the board adopted a dovish bias last month, after keeping a neutral stance for most of 2016. Last week's move, coupled with the tone of the communiqué, suggests that further easing is coming, as growth continues to disappoint and inflation pressures are easing.
Economic activity in Chile in the first half of the year is now a write-off, due to Covid-19. The country is in a deep recession, and the impact of lockdowns on labour markets and businesses will cause long-lasting economic damage, which will hold back the recovery.
Chile's economy is showing the first reliable signs of improvement, at last. December retail sales rose 1.9% year-over-year, up from 0.4% in November, indicating that household expenditure is starting to revive, in line with a pick-up in consumer confidence and the improving labor market.
This week's March economic activity reports in Chile have been relatively strong, with the industrial sector expanding briskly and retail sales solid.
Data released last week confirmed the strength of the economic recovery in Chile, and we expect further good news in the next three-to-six months.
The economic recovery disappointed in Chile during most of the first half of the year, despite relatively healthy fundamentals, including low interest rates, low inflation and stable financial metrics.
Chile's central bank kept rates unchanged last Thursday at 2.50% with a dovish bias, following an unexpected 50bp rate cut at the June meeting.
Chile's central bank left rates unchanged at 3.5% last Thursday, as expected, and maintained its neutral tone. Inflation pressures are easing, economic activity remains sluggish and global risks have increased.
Chile's Q3 GDP report, released yesterday, confirmed that the economy lost momentum in the last quarter.
The Chilean economy improved in the first quarter, growing 2.0% year-over-year, up from 1.3% in the fourth quarter. Net trade led the improvement, with exports rising 2.1% quarter-on-quarter, thanks to the modest rise in metal prices and an increase in exports of services, especially tourism.
Chile's Q2 GDP report, released on Friday, confirmed that the economy gathered momentum in recent months, following an alarmingly weak start to the year.
Chile's Q2 GDP report, released yesterday, confirmed that the economy gathered strength in the first half of the year, consolidating a strong recovery that started in Q3 2017.
Incoming data confirm our view that the Chilean economy to rebound steadily in the second half of the year, with real GDP increasing 1.5% quarter-on-quarter in Q3, after a relatively modest 0.9% increase in Q2 and a meagre 0.1% in Q1.
Chile's Q1 GDP report, released yesterday, confirmed that the economy weakened sharply at the beginning of the year, due mainly to temporary shocks, including adverse weather conditions.
The recent March economic activity reports for Chile have been terrible, showing the first signs of the Covid-19 shock, and worse is to come.
Economic conditions are deteriorating rapidly in Chile, despite the relatively decent Imacec reading for Q3.
Chile's economic outlook remains challenging. Overall, 2015 will likely mark the second consecutive year of disappointing growth, but it will be better than 2014, a year to forget.
Chile's near-term economic outlook is still negative, but clouds have been gradually dispersing since late Q4, due mostly to better news on the global trade front, China's improving economic prospects, and rising copper prices.
Chile's economic outlook is still positive, but clouds have been gradually gathering since mid-year, due mostly to the slowdown in China, low copper prices and falling consumer and business confidence.
Economic growth in Chile slowed in Q1, despite a relatively strong end to the quarter, and the chances of an accelerating recovery remains disappointingly low, due to both global and domestic headwinds.
Chile's inflation outlook remains benign, allowing policymakers to cut interest rates if the economic recovery falters.
Economic activity data in Chile have been soft and uneven this year, due mainly to the hit from low commodity prices and uncertainty surrounding the reform agenda, which has badly damaged consumer and investor sentiment. The latest Imacec index, a proxy for GDP, increased just 1.7% year-over-year in October, down from the 2.7% gain in September, and below the 2.2% average seen during Q3 as a whole.
Chile's central bank, the BCCh, held its reference rate unchanged at 2.75% on Tuesday, in line with the majority of analysts' forecasts.
Chile's economy remains under pressure, at least temporarily. After signs of recovery in Q1, activity deteriorated in Q2 and at the start of the third quarter. The sluggish global economy--especially China, Chile's main trading partner--is exacerbating the domestic slowdown, hit by low business and consumer confidence.
Chilean GDP growth hit bottom in August, but activity is now picking up and will gather speed over the coming quarters. The tailwinds from lower oil prices and fiscal stimulus will soon be visible in the activity data.
Chile's economy appears to have gathered momentum in February with the Imacec index, a proxy for GDP, increasing 2.8% year-over-year, up from a modest 0.1% contraction in January and its fastest pace since January 2015. Activity was driven mainly by expansion in services, mining and retail commerce activities.
Chile's Imacec index confirmed that economic growth ended the year on a soft note, due mainly to weakness in the mining sector.
Economic growth in Chile picked up in Q1, but the recovery remains disappointingly weak, due to both global and domestic headwinds. The latest Imacec index, a proxy for GDP, rose just 2.1% year-over-year in March, slowing from a 2.8% gain in February. Assuming no revisions next month, economic activity rose 1.2% quarter-on-quarter in Q1, better than the 0.9% increase in Q4. These data points to a modest pick-up in GDP growth in Q1, to 1.8% year-over-year, from 1.3% in Q4.
Chile's economy started the third quarter decently, after taking a series of hits, including low commodity prices and the slowdown of the global economy.
Chile's growth dynamics were robust in August, according to the latest data. Production rose and consumption remained strong during most of Q3. Indeed, industrial output increased 5.1% year-over- year, up from an already strong 3.1% increase in July, and contrasting sharply with the 2% fall in Q2.
Chile's activity numbers at the beginning of Q3 were mediocre, suggesting that the economy remains sluggish. The industrial production index--comprising mining, manufacturing, and utility output--fell by 1.7% year-over-year in July, reversing a 1.6% expansion in June. A disappointing 4.5% year-over-year contraction in mining activity depressed the July headline index, following a 1.4% increase in June. The moderation in output growth was due to maintenance-related shutdowns at key processing plants, and disruptions from labor strikes, especially a three-week strike by contract workers at Codelco--the state-owned mining firm--which badly hit production.
Chile's near-term economic outlook is still negative after a sharp resurgence of coronavirus cases.
Chile's market volatility and high political risk continue, despite government efforts to ease the crisis.
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.
The resilience and adaptability that the Chilean economy has shown over previous cycles has been tested repeatedly over the last year. Uncertainty on the political front, falling metal prices, and growing concerns about growth in China have been the key factors behind expectations of slowing GDP growth.
Chile's Central Bank left its main interest rate unchanged last week at 3.0%, for the seventh month in a row. The press release maintained its neutral tone, as in previous recent meetings, as the BCCh acknowledged that the economy is growing at a moderate pace, with some indicators suggesting less dynamic growth "at the margin".
Central banks in Chile and Peru kept their reference rates unchanged last week, as expected, as inflation pressures in both countries are starting to ease. But different economic outlooks are emerging. Chile's economy continues to disappoint, while Peru's is picking up. Indeed, Peru is the only country in the region with clear positive momentum.
The second presidency of Chile's conservative Sebastián Piñera, a billionaire turned politician, began on Sunday, March 11, in favourable economic circumstances.
Chile's economic outlook is still clouded, due mostly to the slowdown in China and low copper prices. But the steady, slow increase in the Imacec index, a monthly proxy for GDP, supports our view of a sustained but modest economic recovery this year. The index increased 1.8% year-over-year in November, marginally up from the meagre 1.5% gain in October, but below the 2.2% average seen during Q3 as a whole. November's gain was driven by an increase in services activity, offsetting weakness in mining. Services have been the key engine of growth in the current cycle and likely will remain so in H1.
Chile's economic sector survey, released on Monday, provides further evidence that the cyclical recovery in the economy continues, albeit at a moderate pace. On the demand side, the rebound is still in place, with retail sales jumping 2.0% month-to-month in February and the underlying trend firm.
On December 17, voters will go to the polls for the second time in less than a month to choose Chile's next president.
Chile's Q3 GDP report, released yesterday, confirmed that the economy gathered speed in the third quarter, but this is now in the rearview mirror.
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.
Chile's economic indicators for July were unreservedly weak, confirming that the economic recovery remains sluggish. The industrial production index--comprising mining, manufacturing, and utility output--fell by 5.2% year-over-year in August, after a 1.7% contraction in July. Mining production suffered a sharp 9.3% year-over-year contraction, due mainly to an 8.3% fall in copper production, as strikes and maintenance works badly hit the industry.
The Chilean economy was emerging in early Q1 from the self-inflicted shock from the social unrest in October, but the upturn was interrupted in early- March by the restrictive measures introduced to contain Covid-19.
Chile's April retail sales data, released on Monday, show that private consumption started the second quarter on a solid footing. Sales rose 3.0% month-to-month, pushing the year-over-rate up to 7.9% from 1.4% in March and an average of 4.0% in Q1. The headline was boosted by a favourable calendar effect, as April this year had two more trading days than April 2015.
Chile's Q4 GDP report, released yesterday, confirmed that the economy accelerated at the end of last year, supported by rising capex and solid consumption.
Chile's weak indicators in January confirm that the economy is struggling. Mining output plunged 12.6% year-over-year, down from a modest 0.6% contraction during Q4, due mostly to falling copper production and an unfavourable base effect. This will reverse in February but we still look for a 5% drop.
Industrial output in Chile struggled late in the third quarter, falling 1.3% month-to-month in September. The year-over-year rate, calendar and seasonally adjusted, rose 2.4% in September, down from a revised 5.3% in August.
In one line: A modest rebound, but the trend is improving.
In one line: Terrible numbers, but likely marking the floor.
In one line: Inflation still little source of concern.
In one line: A decent Q1, but Q2 will be terrible.
In one line: A soft Q1, and the outlook remain challenging.
In one line: A soft headline and a near-term misery looms.
In one line: Social unrest puts the economy on its knees.
In one line: A solid start to the year, but Q2 will be awful.
In one line: Another hefty cut as the economy struggles, and the door is open to further stimulus.
In one line: A surprise hefty rate cut; policymakers respond to the subpar recovery and trade war fears.
In one line: Rates on hold, due to uncertainty about inflation and the CLP.
In one line: On hold at the technical low for the foreseeable future, and more QE.
In one line: Rates on hold as the economy falters.
In one line: On hold at the technical low; the recession is ongoing.
In one line: Another hefty cut as the economy is heading for a deep recession.
In one line: Rates on hold, and the statement suggests no easing in the near term.
In one line: Soft start to the third quarter; the trade war is a huge drag.
In one line: The first signs of the coronavirus hit; more pain to come.
In one line: Great, but rising external risks suggest that the recovery will stutter.
In one line: A decent end to the year as the hit from the social unrest eases.
In one line: A marginal improvement, but poor mining activity remains a drag.
In one line: A surprising rebound in activity.
In one line: Non-mining activity collapses in April; Q2 is a write-off.
In one line: A solid rebound but the trade war remains a key risk.
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.
In one line: Grim, due to Covid-19, but a modest recovery likely will emerge in Q3.
In one line: Political uncertainty will weigh on the economy in Q4.
In one line: A sharp m/m rebound, but it won't impede a rate cut in December.
In one line: A marginal improvement in manufacturing, offset by poor mining activity.
In one line: Weak, but the full hit will come in April.
In one line: A modest m/m increase, but the CLP sell-off in November poses upside risks.
In one line: A modest upturn is underway, but the overall picture remains bleak.
In one line: Underlying pressures are tame, despite the CLP sell-off in early Q4.
In one line: A sharp rebound, but the weakness of growth and fading one-time shocks will cap inflation soon.
In one line: Pressures are well under control; the BCCh to remain on the sidelines, for now.
In one line: Underlying pressures under control due to Covid-19.
In one line: An unexpected fall, strengthening BCCh doves.
In one line: Good industrial production numbers; the labour market is still struggling.
In one line: Robust, but backward-looking; Q4 will be grim.
In one line: Q4 hit by the protest, 2020 will be thrashed by Covid-19
In one line: Ugly; but pressures likely will ease in the near term.
In one line: A poor first quarter for retailers.
In one line: A solid rebound, but downside risks remain.
In one line: Stronger than expected, but threats persist.
In one line: Soft industrial data, and external conditions for EM economies are becoming increasingly challenging
In one line: The economy is on the mend, unevenly.
In one line: The economy was on the mend before the virus, but Covid-19 will hit hard.
In one line: Poor, growth slowed rapidly in Q2.
In one line: Early signs of stabilisation, but the rebound remains fragile.
In one line: A weak report, but Q3 as a whole was decent.
In one line: Economic activity its rebounding following the social unrest.
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.
LatAm assets and currencies had a bad November, due to global trade war concerns, the USD rebound and domestic factors.
The border security agreement between the U.S. and Mexico has strengthened hopes that the Sino- U.S. trade war will end soon.
Data released yesterday reinforced our forecast of a further rate cut in Brazil next month.
The Brazilian Central Bank's policy board-- COPOM--voted unanimously on Wednesday to cut the Selic rate by 50bp to 5.00%, as expected.
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.
Central banks in Mexico and Colombia kept their main interest rates on hold last week, due to recent volatility in the currency markets. Policymakers acknowledged the downside risks to growth, particularly from low commodity prices, but inflation fears, triggered by currency weakness, mean they will not be able to ease if growth slows.
Data released this week in LatAm are the last calm before the coronavirus storm.
Inflation pressures remain under control in most LatAm economies, allowing central banks to keep interest rates on hold, despite the challenging external environment.
LatAm assets and currencies enjoyed a good start to the week, following the agreement between the U.S. and China to pause the trade war.
Mexico's election results are not available as we go to press, but we're expecting a comfortable win for the left-wing populist candidate, AMLO.
The COPOM meeting was the centre of attention in Brazil this week. The committee cut the main rate by 25 basis points to a new historical low of 6.50%, in line with market expectations.
Brazil's industrial sector is on the mend, but some of the key sub-sectors are struggling.
Brazil's industrial production rose 0.8% month- to-month in August, well above our call, and the consensus, for a trivial increase.
Brazil's recovery is consolidating, with recent data flow confirming that the economy had an encouraging start to the year.
Sebastián Piñera returns to the Presidential Palacio de la Moneda, succeeding Michelle Bachelet as president of Chile, as in 2010.
Chile's central bank left its main interest rate unchanged last week at 3.0%, for the ninth month in a row. But policymakers adopted a hawkish bias in the press release, signalling that rates will rise later this year.
Policymakers in Chile left rates unchanged at their monetary policy meeting last week, maintaining their neutral bias.
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.
What do the protests mean for Chile's economy?
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.
Chile's central bank cut the policy rate 25bp last week to 3.0%, in line with consensus, amid easing inflationary pressures. The timing of the rate cut was no surprise; in January, the BCCh cut rates for the first time in more than two years, and kept a dovish bias.
Policymakers in Brazil and Chile took another big step this week in assuring markets that they won't hesitate to act in the fight against the virus.
Chile's Central Bank's monetary policy meeting, scheduled for tomorrow, likely will be one of the most difficult in recent months. Economic activity remains soft, and GDP likely contracted in Q4, due to weakness in mining output and investment.
Chile's central bank left its policy rate on hold last Friday at 3.0%, in line with market expectations, amid easing inflationary pressures and a struggling economy.
Economic growth in Colombia and--especially-- Chile, braked in the fourth quarter and at the start of this year as the strong USD drove up imported good prices and tepid global demand weighed on exports. Colombia's January exports plunged 36.6% year-over-year, even worse than the 35% average drop in Q4.
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.
Markets are looking for the BCCh to remain on hold and the BCRP to ease on Thursday; we think they will be right. In Chile, the BCCh will hold rates because inflation pressures are absent and economic activity is stabilizing following temporary hits in Q1 and early Q2.
Chile and Peru faced similar growth trends in 2018, namely, a solid first half, followed by a poor second half, particularly Q3.
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.
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.
The Andean economies were in the middle of a perfect storm in the first half of the year, suffering slow recoveries, accelerating inflation and plunging commodity prices and currencies. Under these circumstances it was no surprise that Chile and Peru last week left their main interest rates on hold, close to their lowest levels in four years. The pressure coming from their plummeting currencies, however, means their next moves likely will be rate hikes, but not this year.
Inflation data in Brazil, Mexico and Chile last week reinforced our view that interest rates will remain on hold, or be cut, over the coming meetings. The recent fall in oil prices, and the weakness of domestic demand, will offset recent volatility caused by the FX sell-off, driven mostly by the coronavirus story.
The Imacec data released on Wednesday provided further evidence that the Chilean economy grew at a decent pace in the second quarter, following a very sluggish first quarter.
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.
Colombia and Chile faced similar broad trends through most of 2018.
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.
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.
March economic activity in Chile expanded by a solid 4.6% year-over-year, pointing to Q1 real GDP growth of 4.0%, the fastest pace since Q3 2013, up from 3.3% in Q4.
Chile's IMACEC economic activity index rose 3.9% year-over-year in January, up from 2.6% in December, and 2.9% on average in Q4, thanks to strong mining output growth and solid commercial, manufacturing and services activity.
Chile's IMACEC economic activity index rose 2.4% year-over-year in January, down from 2.6% in December, and 3.3% on average in Q4, thanks mostly to weak mining production.
Recent data have confirmed that growth in the Andean economies--Colombia, Chile and Peru--faced downward pressure in Q1, but some leading indicators and recent hard data suggest that we should expect better news ahead.
Data released on Friday show that the Chilean economy had a weak start to the second half of the year.
Chile's unadjusted unemployment rate fell to 7.1% in July-to-September, from 7.3% in June-to-August, but it was up from 6.7% in September last year.
Data released yesterday show that the Chilean economy had a weak start to the second half of the year.
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.
Senior International Economist Andres Abadia on Chile's economy
Andres Abadia on Chile GDP
Senior International Economist Andres Abadia on Chile's jobless rate
Senior International economist Andres Abadia comments on Chile's economic growth
Senior International Economist Andres Abadia comments on the latest Inflation data for Chile
Early last week, Chile's industrial production report for December encouraged some market participants to expect further BCCh easing.
Chile's Imacec index confirmed that economic growth is slowing. The Imacec, a monthly proxy for GDP, fell 1.1 month-to-month in October, pushing the year-over-year rate down to -0.4% from an already soft 1.4% in September. This marks the first annual contraction since October 2009, underscoring Chile's fragility. Mining activity plunged 7.1% year-over-year in October, while the non-mining sector rose just 0.3%, supported by services.
Senior International Economist Andres Abadia on Chile GDP.
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.
Political volatility is a recurrent theme in Brazil. Six members of President Michel Temer's cabinet resigned last Friday due to allegations of conflict of interest on a construction deal. Rumours that President Temer was involved in the affair stirred up market volatility and revived political risk concerns
Recently released data in Colombia signal that the economy ended last year quite strongly.
Mexico's trade balance shrank slightly last year, to USD13B, from USD14.6B in 2015. An improvement in the non-energy deficit was the main driver, while the energy gap worsened.
It has been a nasty start to the year for LatAm as markets have been hit by renewed volatility in China, triggered by the coronavirus.
Data released in recent weeks have confirmed that the Andean economies retained a degree of momentum in Q4, with inflation well under con trol.
Data released over the last few weeks have confirmed that Colombia's economic performance in Q2 was grim, adding weight to our below-consensus GDP forecast.
Brazil industrial production continues to edge lower, falling 1.2% month-to-month in April, a 7.6% year-over-year drop. In March, output was down only 3.4% year-over-year, but the data are volatile in the short-term. The trend is about -7%, down from -3.8% in the second half of last year.
Inflation and growth paths remain diverse across LatAm, but in the Andes, the broad picture is one of modest inflationary pressures and gradual economic recovery.
Yesterday's first estimate of full-year 2019 GDP in Mexico confirmed that growth was extremely poor, due to domestic and external shocks.
Brazil is now paying the price of President Rousseff's first term, which was characterized by unaffordable expansionary policies. As a result, inflation is now trending higher, forcing the BCB to tighten at a more aggressive pace than initially intended--or expected by investors--depressing business and investment confidence.
We're hearing a lot about permanent changes to the economy in the wake of Covid-19, but that might not be the right description. Not much is permanent, and assuming permanence in just about anything, therefore, is risky.
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.
The Mexican economy had a decent start to the second half of the year, thanks to resilient domestic demand, amid signs of recovery in industrial activity. GDP rose 0.6% quarter-on-quarter in Q3, a bit faster than in Q2, lifting the year-over-year rate to 2.4% from 2.2% in Q2. This is the first time the statistics office, INEGI, published an advance reading on GDP, reducing the time between the end of the quarter to the report date to 30 days from 52.
The key story in Brazil this year remains one of gradual recovery, but downside risks have increased sharply, due mainly to challenging external conditions.
Economic prospects in the Andes have deteriorated significantly in recent weeks, due mainly to the escalation of the trade war.
Thursday and Friday were busy days for LatAm economy watchers. In Brazil, the data underscored our view that the economy is on the mend, but the recent upturn remains shaky, and external risks are still high.
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.
Colombia's central bank has found a relatively sweet spot.
BanRep accelerated the pace of easing last Friday, cutting Colombia's key interest rate by a bold 50 basis points, to 5.75%. Economic activity has been under severe pressure in recent months. The economy expanded by only 1.1% year-over-year in Q1, following an already weak 1.6% in Q4.
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.
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 inflation rate remained well under control over the first half of February.
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.
Data released yesterday confirmed that Mexico's economy ended Q4 poorly, confounding the most hawkish Banxico Board members.
Mexico's final estimate of third quarter GDP, released yesterday, confirmed that the economy is still struggling in the face of domestic and external headwinds.
This week's key data releases in Mexico likely will reaffirm that growth remains below trend, while inflation continues to ease.
Brazil's external deficit fell marginally in October, but most of the improvement is now likely behind us. The unadjusted current account deficit dipped to USD3.3B, from USD4.3B in October 2015. The trend is stabilizing, with the 12-month total rolling deficit easing to USD22B--that's 1.2% of GDP--from USD23B in September.
Policymakers and governments are gradually deploying major fiscal and monetary policy measures to ease the hit from Covid-19 and the related financial crisis.
Brazil's central bank doubled the pace of rate increases last Wednesday, in the wake of the re-elected Rousseff government's promise to tackle the severe inflation problem.
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.
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 dovish members of Banxico's board garnered further support on Friday for prolonging the current easing monetary cycle over coming meetings.
While we were out, data released in Mexico added to our downbeat view of the economy in the near term, supporting our base case for interest rate cuts in the near future.
Economic data released on Friday underscored our view that bolder rate cuts in Brazil are looming. The BCB's latest BCB's inflation report, released on Thursday, showed that policymakers now see conditions in place to increase the pace of easing "moderately" .
Brazil's February industrial production numbers, labour market data, and sentiment indicators are gradually providing clarity on the underlying pace of activity growth, pointing to some red flags.
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.
We were expecting the pandemic in the Andes to reach a plateau over the coming weeks, given the quick response of regional governments to fight the virus.
Brazil's external accounts were a relatively bright spot again last year.
Retail sales in Mexico fell in Q4, but we think households' spending will continue to contribute to GDP growth in the first quarter, at the margin.
All the evidence indicates that growth in Mexican consumers' spending is slowing, despite the better- than-expected November retail sales numbers, released yesterday.
Recent polls in Argentina suggest that Alberto Fernández, from the opposition platform Frente de Todos, has comfortably beaten Mauricio Macri, to become Argentina's president.
The data in LatAm were all over the map while we were out.
Inflation pressures in Colombia cooled considerably last month. Saturday's CPI report showed that inflation fell to 3.4% year-over-year in July, its lowest level since 2014, from 4.0% in June.
Mexico's economic outlook has dimmed recently, a point driven home by sentiment data released last week. Still, we think GDP growth will slow only marginally in Q4, to about 11⁄2% year-over-year. Consumers' spending likely will remain strong in the near term, thanks mainly to rising remittances from the U.S., driven by fear of policy changes under the Trump administration.
Colombia's annual inflation rate closed last year at 3.7% year-over-year, unchanged from November, and within Banrep's target, 2%-to-4%. Core inflation, ex-food and fuel, advanced to 2.8% in December from 2.6% in November.
Brazil's industrial sector is still struggling, despite recent signs of better economic and financial conditions.
Andean inflation remains under control, due to subpar growth, modest pressures on prices for nontradeables, and broadly stable currencies.
Colombia's economy has continued to slow, due mainly to lagged effect of the oil price shock since mid-2014, and stubbornly high inflation, which has triggered painful monetary tightening. Modest fiscal expansion and capital inflows have helped to avoid a hard landing, but the economy is still feeling the pain of weakening domestic demand. And the twin deficits--though improving--remain a threat.
Inflation pressures are easing rapidly in Colombia, according to October's CPI report, released on Saturday. Inflation fell to 6.5% year-over-year in October, down from 7.3% in September; the consensus expectation was 6.7%.
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.
Headline inflation in Brazil remained low in October, and even breached the lower bound of the BCB's target range.
Recent economic indicators in Mexico have been mixed, distorted by temporary factors, including the effect of the natural disasters in late Q3. Private consumption has lost some momentum, hit by the lagged effect of high interest rates and inflation, as well as the earthquakes.
The Mexican inflation rate soared at the start of 2017, but this is yesterday's story; the headline will stabilize soon and will decline slowly towards the year-end. May data yesterday showed that inflation rose to 6.2%, from 5.8% in April. Prices fell 0.1% month-to-month unadjusted in May, driven mainly by lower non-core prices, which dropped by 1.3%, as a result of lower seasonal electricity tariffs.
The coronavirus outbreak has pushed inflation lower in the Andean economies as the shock drives them into the deepest recession on record.
Colombia's August inflation rate exceeded BanRep's 2-to-4% target range yet again, rising to a six-year high of 4.7%, from 4.5% in July. The signs of stabilization over the previous couple of months proved to be temporary. Core inflation has jumped above the upper bound of the inflation target too, climbing to 4.2%--the highest rate since 2009--in August from 4.0% in July, suggesting that the pass-through from the depreciating currency into consumer prices is starting to hurt. Inflation in tradables jumped in August to 5.2% from 4.7%, underscoring the hit from the COP's drop.
Political developments are clouding the horizon in Mexico, at least temporarily. Mexico's Finance Minister Luis Videgaray, the mastermind behind President Enrique Peña Nieto's most important economic reforms, resigned on Wednesday. José Antonio Meade, a former finance chief, has been tapped to replace him.
In one line: Unemployment nudges higher in Q3.
Colombia's trade deficit continued to narrow in Q3; a postive development now that EM are back in the firing line. Assuming no revisions, the marginal year-over-year dip in the September trade deficit means that the third quarter deficit was USD3.1B, down from US4.6B a year ago.
Inflation in most economies in LatAm is well under control, allowing central banks to keep a dovish bias, and giving them room for further rate cuts.
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 Fed's 50bp rate cut last week, aiming to shield the U.S. economy against Covid-19, has opened the door for some central banks in LatAm to emulate the move.
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.
Colombia's disinflation since mid-2016 has been driven by easing pressures on food prices, weak demand, and the better performance of the COP. But higher regulated prices at the start of the second quarter have triggered a pause in the downward trend.
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.
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.
Economic activity is slowing in Colombia. The ISE activity index--a monthly proxy for GDP--rose only 0.6% year-over-year in April, down from 2.3% in March, and we expect it to rise at this pace over the coming months. During the first quarter, the index rose at an average year-over-year rate of 3.0%.
Data released on Wednesday, along with the BCB's press release on Tuesday, supported our longstanding forecast of further rate cuts in Brazil in the very near term.
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.
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.
Yesterday's Brazilian industrial production data continue to tell a story of a slow business cycle upturn. Output rose 0.2% month-to-month in November, after a downwardly revised 1.2% plunge in October. The year-over-year rate, though, jumped to -1.1%, from -7.3% in October. The underlying trend is now on the mend, following weakness in Q3 and early Q4. Output rose in November three of the four major categories and in 13 of the 24 sectors.
The economic calendar in Mexico was relatively quiet over Christmas, and broadly conformed to our expectations of poor economic activity in Q4.
Brazil's December industrial production report, released yesterday, confirmed that the recovery was stuttering at the end of last year.
Wednesday's Brazilian industrial production data were worse than we expected but the details were less alarming than the headline. Output slipped 1.8% month-to-month in March, the biggest fall since August 2015, setting a low starting point for Q2.
Brazil heads to the polls on Sunday, followed by an expected run-off on October 28.
Yesterday's minutes of the October 31 COPOM meeting, at which the Central Bank cut the Selic rate unanimously by 50bp at 5.00%, reaffirmed the committee's post-meeting communiqué, which signalled that rates will be cut by the "same magnitude" in December.
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.
Fears of a Chinese hard landing have roiled financial and commodity markets this past year and have constrained the economic recovery of major raw material exporters in LatAm.
The Mexican economy maintained its relatively strong momentum in Q2. The first estimate of Q2 GDP, released last week, confirmed that growth was resilient during the first half of this year, despite the confidence hit caused by domestic and external headwinds.
Colombia was the fastest growing LatAm economy in 2019, due mostly to strong domestic demand, offsetting a sharp fall in key exports.
Household sentiment in Mexico continues to improve, consistent with tailwinds from low inflation, accommodative monetary policy, and the improving labor market. The consumers confidence index rose to 94.7 in June from 92.0 in May, with four of the five components improving, especially big-ticket purchasing expectations and expectations for the economy.
The September Banxico minutes restated that the U.S. Fed's first interest rate hike is the key event awaited by Mexican policymakers. Banxico's board of governors voted unanimously on September 21st to keep the main interest rate at a record-low 3%.
Recently released data in Mexico are sending weak signals for the business outlook, and the Texcoco airport saga won't help.
The Brazilian central bank cut the benchmark Selic interest rate by 25bp, to 4.25%, on Wednesday night, as expected.
January CPI data in Colombia, released on Saturday, confirmed that inflation pressures eased last month, but the details weren't as good as the headline. Inflation fell to 5.5% year-over-year, from 5.8% in December, as a result of falling food inflation-- helped mainly by a favourable base effect--and lower clothing prices.
Mexican asset prices and sentiment have been helped in recent weeks by less-harsh rhetoric from the Trump administration. The headline consumer confidence for February, reported yesterday, rose to 75.7 from 68.5 in January; all the sub-components improved. The data are not seasonally adjusted, so most local analysts look at the data in year-over-year terms.
Peru's inflation continues to surprise to the downside, paving the way for an additional rate cut next week.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Inflation in the Andes remains in check and the near term will be benign, suggesting that central banks will remain on hold over the coming months.
This has been a very complicated week for LatAm policymakers, who are particularly uneasy about the performance of the FX market.
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.
The Mexican economy's brightest spot continues to be private consumption.
The recent FX depreciation and falling oil prices are driving the dynamics of inflation across the Andean economies.
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.
Recent Mexican data have been upbeat, supporting our view that a gradual recovery is underway. In the key auto sector, for example, production increased 11.4% year-over-year in November, while exports rose 5.8% year-over-year in October.
The Mexican industrial sector is struggling. December industrial output fell 0.4% month-to-month, the third consecutive drop, driven mainly by a similar decline in mining/oil output.
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.
November production data in Mexico, released Monday, showed that the industrial economy remained quite soft in the last part of last year. The collapse in capital spending in the oil sector, slowing public spending, and weaker growth in EM and the U.S. manufacturing sector have combined to hit Mexican industrial output quite hard. Total production rose just 0.1% year-over-year in November, down from an already weak 0.5% in October, and below the 1.3% average increase in Q3. Output fell 0.5% month-to-month, the biggest drop since May, reflecting broad-based weakness.
LatAm governments and policymakers are bracing for a more dramatic and longer virus-led downturn than initially expected.
Growth in South America disappointed last year, but prospects are gradually improving on the back of rising commodity prices and the global manufacturing rebound. These factors will help to ease the region's external and fiscal vulnerabilities, particularly over the second half of the year. On the domestic front, though, the first quarter has proved challenging for some countries, hit by temporary supply factors such as a mine strikes, floods, and wildfires.
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.
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.
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.
The Andean countries were quick to implement significant measures in response to the initial stage of the pandemic, adopting a broad range of economic and social policies to ease the effects.
Most countries in LatAm are now fighting a complex global environment; a viral outbreak of biblical proportions and plunging oil prices, after last week's OPEC fiasco.
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.
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.
Wednesday's first estimate of full-year 2018 GDP in Mexico indicates that growth lost momentum in Q4.
Recent economic weakness in Brazil, particularly in domestic demand, and the ongoing deterioration of confidence indicators, have strengthened the case for interest rate cuts.
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.
Banxico left Mexico's benchmark interest rate at 3.25% last week, after increasing it by 25bp in December, when the U.S. Fed raised rates. Banxico's board maintained its neutral tone and indicated that the balance of risks has deteriorated for growth and short-term inflation. As usual, policymakers reiterated the importance of following the Fed closely to avoid financial instability, which in turn could spill over to inflation.
On Tuesday, Brazil's Special Committee presented its recommendation for a constitutional amendment capping spending. Currently it is being voted in the Lower House Committee.
Mexico's economy lost some momentum in Q4, due mainly to weakness in industrial and agricultural activity, but this was partly offset by the strength of the services sector as consumers' spending again carried the economic recovery. Real GDP rose 0.6% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, after a 0.8% expansion in Q3, the tenth consecutive increase. Year-over-year growth dipped marginally to 2.5% from 2.6% in Q3, but the underlying trend remains stable. In 2015 as a whole the economy expanded by 2.5%, up from 2.3% in 2014.
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.
The major Andean economies had a very challenging first quarter. In Colombia, the effect of the sharp fall in oil prices has become more evident in the last few months. The ISE economic activity index--a monthly proxy for GDP--fell considerably during 2014, with a significant deceleration over the last half of the 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.
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.
Strong fundamentals have supported private consumption in Mexico recently, but we now expect a slowdown. Spending will not collapse, though, because consumer credit growth, formal employment, real wage income and remittances will continue to underpin consumption for the next three-to-six months.
Yesterday's CPI report in Mexico showed that inflation remains high, but we are confident that it will start to fall consistently during Q1, thanks chiefly to a favourable base effect.
Inflation in Mexico edged higher in the second half, but we expect both the headline and core rates to continue falling, allowing Banxico to keep interest rates on hold.
Brazil's central bank has ignored, so far, the severe economic downturn and has continued its aggressive monetary tightening in order to regain credibility and curb stubbornly high inflation. In contrast, Mexico's central bank is in an enviable position, with inflation below target and under control. Its monetary policy is mainly dependent on the Fed's rate normalization.
Mexico's headline inflation fell to a record low of 2.9% in May, down from 3.1% in April and below the middle of Banxico's inflation target, 2-to-4%, for the first time since May 2005. C ore inflation was unchanged at 2.3% in May; higher services prices were offset by a slowing in the rate of increase of goods prices to 2.4% from 2.7% in April, confirming that the pass-through effect from the MXN's depreciation has been very limited.
Yesterday's CPI report in Mexico showed that inflation pressures are rising consistently. Headline inflation rose to 3.4% year-over-year in December, from 3.3% in November, above the mid-point of the central bank's 2-to-4% target range. Surging goods inflation and higher services prices--especially seasonal increases for package holidays and airline fares--were mainly to blame.
Andres Abadia authors our Latin American service. Andres is a native of Colombia and has many years' experience covering the global economy, with a particular focus on Latin America. In 2017, he won the Thomson Reuters Starmine Top Forecaster Award for Latam FX. Andres's research covers Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela, focusing on economic, political and financial developments. The countries of Latin America differ substantially in terms of structure, business cycle and politics, and Andres' researchhighlights the impact of these differences on currencies, interest rates and equity markets. He believes that most LatAm economies are heavily influenced by cyclical forces in the U.S. and China, as well as domestic policy shocks and local politics. He keeps a close eye on both external and domestic developments to forecast their effects on LatAm economies, monetary policy, and financial markets. Before starting to work at Pantheon Macroeconomics in 2013, Dr. Abadia was the Head of Research for Arcalia/Bancaja (now Bankia) in Madrid, and formerly Chief Economist for the same institution. Previously, he worked at Ahorro Coporacion Financiera, as an Economist. Andres earned a PhD in Applied Economics, and a Masters Degree in Economics and International Business Administration from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, and a BSc in Economics from the Universidad Externado de Colombia.
Brazilian assets were hit in Q3 by global external challenges, while domestic fundamentals gradually improved.
Brazil's retail sales ended the second quarter on a less-bad footing. Sales volumes increased 0.1% month-to-month in June, pushing the year-over-year rate up to -5.3%, from -9.0% in May. Smoothed year-over-year growth in retail sales has improved to -7% from its cyclical trough of around -9% in the end of last year.
Colombia's January inflation rate easily exceeded BanRep's 2-to-4% target range yet again, jumping to 7.5% from 6.8% in October, the fastest increase since December 2008. This is putting pressure on BanRep to continue tightening, following 150bp rate hikes, to 6.0%, since September.
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.
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.
Economic and financial conditions continue to deteriorate sharply in LatAm.
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.
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.
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.
Economic data released in recent weeks underscore that Brazil emerged from recession in Q1, but the recovery is fragile and further rate cuts are badly needed. The political crisis has damaged the reform agenda, and political uncertainty lingers.
Politics will be the key factor in LatAm over the coming quarters, as presidential and legislative elections take place throughout the region.
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.
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.
The Andean economies have been clear examples of true leadership in the current global crisis. Leaders of these countries acted rapidly to contain the spread of the virus, jumping right over the phases of denial, anger and unscrupulousness we've seen in Brazil and Mexico.
While we were away, EM growth prospects and risk appetite deteriorated, due mainly to rising geopolitical risks and Turkey's currency crisis.
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.
The Andean economies haven't been immune to the turmoil roiling the global economy in the past few weeks.
Brazil's monetary policy committee, the Copom, cut the Selic rate by 25bp to 14.0% in a unanimous decision, without bias, on Wednesday. This marks the start of the first easing cycle since 2012, and it arrives after 15 months with rates held at 14.25%.
Mexican policymakers held an emergency meeting yesterday in the wake of DM easing, global fiscal stimulus, plunging oil prices, and the pandemic crisis, slashing interest rates to their lower level since early 2017.
Brazil's economic performance has improved marginally in recent months, with inflation falling and economic activity and sentiment data stabilizing, or even increasing modestly. The latest regional economic activity report, for instance, showed that although overall output declined again on a sequential basis in March-to-May, three of the five regions expanded.
Recent global developments lead us to intensify our focus on trade in LatAm.
The sharp downtrend in commodity prices in recent months is alarming from a LatAm perspective.
Mexico's central bank last week left its policy rate at 7.0%, the highest level since early 2009.
Yesterday's report on October private spending in Mexico was positive, suggesting that consumption remained relatively strong at the start of Q4. Retail sales jumped 1.6% month-to-month, following a modest 0.2% drop in September. October's rebound was the biggest gain since March this year, but note that wild swings are not unusual in these data. The headline year-over-year rate rose to 9.3%, from 8.1% in September, but survey data signal to a gradual slowdown in coming months to around 5%.
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.
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.
The data in LatAm have been all over the map in recent weeks.
Data on Friday showed that the downward trend in Brazil's unemployment continued into this year. The unadjusted unemployment rate fell to 11.2% in January, slightly below the consensus, and down from 12.0% in January last year.
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.
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.
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.
Economic activity remains under severe strain in the Andes.
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.
Industrial data released this week showed that the Mexican economy stumbled during the second quarter. Private consumption, however, continues to rise, albeit at a more modest pace than in recent months. The ANTAD same store sales survey rose 5.3% year-over-year in June, up from 2.8% in May, but this is misleading.
Hard data for Brazil and Mexico, released last week, support the case for further interest rate cuts.
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.
Inflation in the Andean economies ended 2019 well within central banks' objectives, despite many domestic and external challenges.
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.
Mexico's domestic conditions don't warrant an imminent rate hike in the near term. Headline inflation continues to fall, reaching an all-time low of 2.5% in October. It should remain below 3% in the coming months. And core prices remain wellbehaved, increasing at a modest pace, signalling very little pass-through of the MXN's depreciation. Economic activity gained some momentum in Q3-- this will be confirmed on Friday's GDP report--but demand pressures on inflation are absent and the output gap is still ample. Under these conditions, policymakers should not be in a rush to hike, but they have signalled once again that they will act immediately after the Fed.
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.
Data this week confirmed that private spending in Colombia stumbled in June. Retail sales fell 0.7% year-over-year, from an already poor -0.4% in May. The underlying trend is negative, following two consecutive declines, for the first time since late 2009. Domestic demand remains subdued as consumers are scaling back spending due to weaker real incomes, lower confidence and tighter credit and labor market conditions.
We doubt that this week will see the MPC joining the list of other major central banks that have abandoned plans to raise interest rates this year.
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.
While we were away, EM growth prospects and risk appetite deteriorated significantly, due mainly to rising geopolitical risks, weaker economic prospects for DM, and, in particular, the most recent chapter of the global trade war.
The Colombian economy has been able to grow this year despite the plunge in oil prices since the middle of 2014. Gains in consumers' spending and investment have offset part of the hit from falling exports. But private spending growth, nonetheless, slowed considerably during the first few months of the year, as shown in our char t below, in part due to rising prices for imported goods after the depreciation of the COP, as well as broad-based concerns over the state of the economy.
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.
The Andean economies have been punished with high inflation triggered by currency depreciation and El Niño. Under these circumstances, Peru's central bank, the BCRP, admitted defeat yet again in the face of these temporary inflationary effects, increasing interest rates by 25bp to 4.0% last Thursday, the third hike in five months. Inflation in Peru remains stubbornly high, climbing to 4.4% year-over-year in December from 4.2% in November, and the upside risks remain elevated.
Latin American markets and policymakers are bracing for another complicated week, after the second, and more aggressive, Fed emergency move over the weekend.
The global coronavirus pandemic is hitting the LatAm economy at a particularly vulnerable time, following last year's stuttering economic recovery, temporary shocks in key economies and the effect of the global trade war.
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.
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.
Data released on Friday showed that November inflation was in line with, or below, expectations in Brazil, Colombia and Chile.
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