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156 matches for "Chile":
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 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.
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 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".
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sebastián Piñera returns to the Presidential Palacio de la Moneda, succeeding Michelle Bachelet as president of Chile, as in 2010.
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.
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.
Policymakers in Chile left rates unchanged at their monetary policy meeting last week, maintaining their neutral bias.
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.
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.
Senior International Economist Andres Abadia on Chile GDP.
Senior International Economist Andres Abadia comments on the latest Inflation data for Chile
Senior International Economist Andres Abadia on Chile's jobless rate
Senior International Economist Andres Abadia on Chile's economy
Senior International economist Andres Abadia comments on Chile's economic growth
Andres Abadia on Chile GDP
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.
Early last week, Chile's industrial production report for December encouraged some market participants to expect further BCCh easing.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Peru's inflation continues to surprise to the downside, paving the way for an additional rate cut next week.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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%.
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%.
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.
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.
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.
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" .
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.
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.
Data released in recent weeks have confirmed that the Andean economies retained a degree of momentum in Q4, with inflation well under con trol.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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%.
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%.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Brazil's recession is getting uglier. Real GDP in Brazil fell 1.7% quarter-on-quarter in Q3, much worse than expected, though marginally less terrible than the downwardly revised 2.1% contraction in Q2. Year-over-year, the economy plunged by 4.5% in the third quarter, down from -3.0% in Q2, and -2.5% in the first half. The disappointment was widespread in Q3; though rising mining output was a positive, the underlying trend in mining is still falling. The key story here, though, is that the economy has sunk into its worst slump since the Great Depression.
Brazil's 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Andres Abadia, who authors our Latin American service, was previously Head of Research at Bankia in Madrid. Andres is a native of Colombia and has wide and deep experience covering all the Latin American economies. He has degrees in Economics from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain and the Universidad Externado de Colombia.
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