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285 matches for "mexico":
Mexico's National Institute of Statistics--INEGI-- will release preliminary GDP data for Q1 on Friday. We are expecting good news, despite the tough external and domestic environment. According to the economic activity index--a monthly proxy for GDP-- growth gained further momentum in Q1, based on data up to February.
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.
Mexico's economy continues to bring good news, despite the tough external environment for all EM economies. According to the economic activity index, a monthly proxy for GDP, growth gained further momentum in Q4. Activity rose 2.7% year-over-year in November, supported by stronger services activities, which expanded 0.3% month-to-month. The services sector has been the main driver of the current cycle, growing 3.8% year-over-year in November, bolstering our optimism about the domestic economy in the near-term.
Mexican consumers started the third quarter strongly, supporting our relatively upbeat view for the economy in the near term. Private consumption represents about 70% of Mexico's GDP, one of the consumption shares in the EM world, so the strength of spending is hugely important.
This year has proved to be challenging for retailers in Mexico. The combination of fiscal reform, the economic slowdown over the first half of the year, and the collapse of consumer sentiment took a significant toll in the sector.
Mexico's central bank, Banxico, capitulated in the face of the rapidly depreciating MXN and unexpectedly increased interest rates by 50bp to 3.75% on Wednesday, following an unscheduled meeting the day before. The decision was a unanimous, brave step, showing that policymakers are extremely worried about the FX sell-off, despite growth still running below potential.
While we were out, the economic news in LatAm was mostly positive. The main upside surprise came from Mexico, with the IGAE activity index--a monthly proxy for GDP--rising 2.9% year-over-year in August, up from 1.2% in July, and an average of 2.4% in Q2. A modest rebound was anticipated, but the headline was much better than we and the markets expected.
U.S. President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order aimed at delivering on his campaign pledge to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The executive order also includes measures to boost border patrol forces and increase the number of immigration enforcement officers. As previous U.S. presidents have discovered, however, signing an executive order is one thing and fulfilling it is something else. President Obama, for instance, signed an executive order to close the Guantanamo detention facility on his second day in office.
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.
Favourable inflation conditions in Mexico remain in place with June consumer prices increasing just 0.1% month-to-month, unadjusted, better than expected. A modest gain in core prices was largely offset by falling non-core prices, so year-over-year inflation edged down to 2.5% from 2.6% in May.
Mexico's central bank, Banxico, will hold its first monetary policy meeting of this year tomorrow. It will break with tradition, holding the meeting on Thursday at 1:00 p.m, local time, instead of the previous 9:00 a.m slot.
Mexico's external accounts remain solid, despite adverse global conditions over the past year. The current account decreased to USD9.5B, or 3.2% of GDP, in the first quarter, just down from 3.3% a year earlier. Shortfalls of USD10.3B in the income account and USD4.7B in goods and services--mostly the latter--were again the key driver of the overall deficit.
Mexico's latest industrial production data were worse than we expected. Output rose just 0.1% month-to-month in September, pushing the year- over-year rate down to -1.3%, from a downwardly revised +0.2% in August.
The balance of risks to activity in Mexico this year is still tilted to the downside, even though recent data have been mixed. Key indicators show that the manufacturing sector is gathering strength on the back of lagged effect of the MXN's sell-off last year, and the improving U.S. economy.
Recent upbeat economic reports have mitigated the downside risks we had been flagging to our growth forecast for Mexico for the current quarter.
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.
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.
Improving consumer fundamentals continue to underpin growth in private spending in Mexico, according to retail sales and inflation reports published this week. March retail sales were much stronger than expected, jumping 3.0% month-to-month, after averaging gains of 0.8% in the preceding three months. And sales for the three months through February were revised up marginally.
Growth appears to have accelerated in the first quarter in Mexico, as NAFTA-related uncertainty abated, inflation started to fall, and the MXN rebounded.
Mexico's economy slowed marginally in Q4, due mainly to the challenging external environment, but the domestic economy remains relatively healthy. Real GDP rose 0.5% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, following a 0.8% solid expansion in Q3. Year-over-year growth dipped to 2.5% from 2.8%.
Mexico's private spending stumbled at the start of the second quarter. Retail sales fell 0.3% month-to-month in April after three consecutive increases, hit by an unexpected 1.6% drop in both supermarket and apparel sales, and a surprising 1.2% fall in food sales. In year-over-year terms, total sales rose 4.6% in April, down from 5.6% in March.
Economic activity in Mexico during the past few months has been stronger than most observers expected. Growth has certainly moderated from the relatively strong pace recorded during the second half of last year, but data for January and February show that it is still quite strong.
Mexico's CPI rose just 0.1% in the first half of March, due to higher core prices. The increase was broadbased within this component, with goods prices increasing by 0.2% and core services 0.4%. Core services prices were driven by temporary factors, including vacation packages and higher airfare tickets. Non-core prices, meanwhile, fell 0.5%, due mainly to falling fresh food prices.
Banxico left Mexico's benchmark interest rate at a record low of 3% on Monday, maintaining its neutral tone and indicating that the balance of risks is unchanged for both inflation and growth. Policymakers remain confident that inflation will remain under control over the coming months, below 3% over the fourth quarter, but they repeated their message that they are vigilant to any inflation pass though from MXN depreciation into prices.
Improving fundamentals have supported private spending in Mexico during the last few quarters. This week's soft retail sales report does not change the picture of a strong underlying trend in consumption. Sales were weaker than expected, falling 1.1% month-to-month in September, but this followed a 1.5% jump in August, and average gains of 1.1% in the previous three months. Mexican retail sales are much more volatile than in most developed economies, and we have been expecting mean reversion following rapid gains during the first half of the year and most of Q3.
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%.
Mexico's inflation is heading down. Wednesday's advance CPI report showed that inflation pressures are finally fading, following temporary shocks in recent months, and the end of the "gasolinazo" effect.
Mexico's inflation is finally falling, giving policymakers room for manoeuvre.
Mexico's economy stuttered at the start of the year. Real GDP rose 0.4% quarter-on-quarter in the first quarter, after a solid 0.7% in the fourth quarter. Q1 activity was supported by the services sector, rising 0.5%, offsetting the 0.2% contraction in industrial activity.
This week's November mid-month inflation reports in Brazil and Mexico underscored their divergent trends. Inflation pressures are steadily falling in Brazil, but in Mexico, the pass-through from the MXN's sell- off is driving up inflation and inflation expectations.
Next July, Mexico will hold presidential elections, an event that will gradually take centre stage as the date approaches. The pre-campaign will start on December 14, but the official campaign opening will take place in late March, when the three main candidates will begin to lay out their platforms.
Economic growth in Mexico will remain relatively modest over the second half of the year, and the outlook for 2017 remains cloudy, for now. The core fundamentals suggest that growth will increase, but we think that depressed mining output and fiscal tightening might limit the pace of the upturn.
The upturn in Mexico's trade balance in recent months stalled in May, but the underlying trend is still improving. Data yesterday showed that the seasonally adjusted deficit rose to USD700M in May, after a USD15M gap in April. Imports rose 2.9% month-to-month, offsetting a mere 0.7% increase in exports.
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.
Mexico's latest hard data suggest things might not be as bad as we feared. Retail sales and manufacturing output were relatively strong at the end of last year, the Q4 preliminary GDP report was mostly upbeat, and the labor market was firing on all cylinders.
Mexico's economy grew 1.0% quarter-on-quarter in Q3, the fastest pace since 2014, following a 0.2% contraction in Q2, according to the preliminary report published yesterday.
Mexico's trade balance shrank slightly last year, to USD11B, from USD13B in 2016. The main driver was a big swing in the non- energy balance, to a record USD8.0B surplus, following a USD0.4B deficit in 2016.
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.
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.
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.
Mexico's data over the last few weeks have confirmed our view that private consumption remains the key driver of the current economic cycle. Solid economic fundamentals, thanks to stimulative monetary policy and structural reforms, have supported the domestic economy in recent quarters. Falling inflation has also been a key driver, slowing to 2.5% by mid-September, a record low, from an average of 4% during 2014.
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.
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.
Downside risks to our growth forecast for Brazil and Mexico for this year have diminished this week. In Brazil, concerns over the potential impact of the meat scandal on the economy have diminished. Some key global customers, including Hong Kong, have in recent days eased restrictions on imports from Brazil, and other counties have ended their bans.
Mexico's structural reforms, robust fundamentals, and its close ties to the U.S. should have conferred a degree of protection from the turmoil in EMs over the past year. But its markets have been hit as hard as other LatAm countries by the sell-off in global markets in recent weeks. The MXN fell about 5% against the USD in January alone, and has dropped by 20% over the last year.
Investors in Mexico likely will focus early this week on yesterday's gubernatorial election results in Nayarit, Coahuila and the State of Mexico. The latter is especially important, because it is viewed as a possible guide to the 2018 presidential election.
Yesterday's first estimate of full-year 2016 GDP in Mexico indicates that growth gathered momentum over the second half of last year. But risks are now tilted to the downside, following the U.S. election. GDP rose 0.6% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, after a 1.0% increase in Q3. Growth was much slower in the firs t half, as shown in our char t below.
Mexico's central bank, Banxico, last night capitulated again to the depreciation of the MXN and increased interest rates by 50bp, for the third time this year. This week's rebound in the currency was not enough to prevent action.
Market participants and analysts have gradually softened their cautious stance towards Mexico, as concerns about the new U.S. administration's trade and immigration policies have eased, and risks of a credit rating downgrade have lessened.
Inflation in Mexico fell significantly in September. Data yesterday showed that the CPI rose just 0.3% month-to-month, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 6.4% from 6.7% in August, its highest level in 16 years.
Mexico's political panorama seems to be becoming clearer, at least temporarily. This should dispel some of the uncertainty that has been hanging over the economy in recent months.
The Mexican government last week unveiled its 2017 fiscal budget proposal. The plan makes clear that the shocks which have battered the economy and public finances since 2015 will linger in to next year. Mexico's government has been eager to cut spending in recent years.
Mexico's February industrial production report was weaker than markets expected. Output expanded by 0.7% year-over-year, below the consensus, 1.2%, and slowing from 0.9% in January.
Industrial production in Mexico remained under pressure at the start of Q4. Output rose just 0.1% month-to-month in October, leaving the year-over-year rate unchanged at -1.4%, down from an average of -0.8% in Q3.
Mexico's latest industrial production figures, released on Friday, showed that the recovery is stuttering. May output fell 0.9% year-over-year, down from the 1.2% gain in April. Total production was depressed by a 1.5% month-to-month drop in construction output, after two consecutive increases.
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.
Growth momentum in Mexico has improved marginally over the last few months after the soft patch during the first quarter, with business and households gaining confidence in the economic recovery. But the upswing has been rather modest, due to the volatility in global financial markets and the challenging external environment. The outlook for the global economy has deteriorated over recent months due to China's problems, and commodity prices remain under pressure. All these factors are now weighing on investors' confidence and hurting EM across asset classes.
Mexico's economy is not accelerating, but it is holding up well in extremely difficult circumstances for EM. Growth is reasonably healthy, inflation is under control and the labor market is resilient. In short, Mexico is a success story, given the backdrop of plunging oil prices. The contrast with the disaster in Brazil is stark. Last week's survey and hard data continued to tell an upbeat story on Mexico's economy. The IMEF manufacturing index, Mexico's PMI, rose to 52.1 in November up from 51.6 in October, lifted mainly by gains in the employment and deliveries indexes.
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.
Mexico is the only major LatAm economy not struggling with inflation. The headline April CPI fell 0.3% month-to-month, with the year-over-year rate unchanged at 3.1%, in the middle o f Banxico's 2-to-4% target. Inflationary pressures have been broadly absent since the beginning of the year, with the annual core CPI rate slowing to 2.3% in April from 2.5% in March.
Mexico's inflation nudged up to a fresh 16-year high in August, but the details of the report confirmed that underlying pressures are easing, in line with our core view.
Yesterday's industrial production report in Mexico added weight to the idea that the sector improved marginally in the first quarter, despite many external threats. Industrial output rose 0.1% month-to-month in February, following a similar gain in January. The calendar-adjusted year-over-year rate rose to -0.1%, after a modest 0.3% contraction in January.
Yesterday's October labour market data in Mexico showed that the adjusted unemployment rate rose a bit to 3.4%, from 3.3% in September.
Mexico's latest industrial production figures, released yesterday, showed that growth is stabilizing, but it likely will not accelerate any time soon. June output rose 1.4% year-over-year, rebounding from the 1.0% contraction in May, and matching April's gain. The increase in output was relatively broad-based, with solid gains in mining and utilities.
Mexico's inflation has been LatAm's odd one out over the last few years. In the decade through 2014, Mexico's inflation rate was broadly in sync with those of its regional fellows, as shown in our first chart.
LatAm's economies are starting to expand at a relatively healthy pace, inflation is more or less under control and near-term growth prospects are positive.
In a week of important global events, local factors remained in the spotlight in Brazil, with a more benign data flow and the central bank statement reducing the likelihood of an imminent end to the easing cycle.
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 underlying state of the Mexican economy is still positive, despite recent signs of a modest slowdown. The IGAE economic activity index--a monthly proxy for GDP--rose 2.1% year-over-year in April, a relatively solid pace, but down from 2.8% in March, and 2.6% in Q1.
The state of the Mexican economy is still favorable, despite the slowdown over the last few quarters. This week, the IGAE economic activity index--a monthly proxy for GDP--rose 2.0% year-over-year in July, a relatively solid pace, but down from 3.2% in June, and 2.6% in the first half. All these data suggest that economic activity failed to gather momentum at the beginning of Q3 after a disappointing first half of the year.
High inflation and interest rates, coupled with increasing uncertainty, both economic and political, put Mexican consumption under strain last year.
Brazil's inflation data continue to disappoint, but they are showing some signs of improvement, at the margin. The mid-month CPI, the IPCA-15 index, jumped to 9.3% year-over-year in July, up from 8.8% in June, soaring well above the upper bound of the inflation target and reaching the highest level since December 2003, as shown in our first chart.
The Mexican economy is recovering gradually, despite many external headwinds. This week, the IGAE economic activity index--a monthly proxy for GDP--rose a solid 2.6% year-over-year in August, up from 2.0% in July. In the first half the economy grew on average 2.4%. The report showed increases in all three sectors, most notably agriculture, up 8.2% year-over-year, followed by services, 3.3%, and industrial activities, with a 1.0% gain.
Brazil's current account deficit is stabilizing following an substantial narrowing since early 2015, thanks to the deep recession.
While we were out, Brazil's economic and political position continued to improve. The recession eased in the second quarter and into July. Industrial production, for example, increased in June for the fourth consecutive month, rising by 1.1% month-to-month.
It is still premature to make fundamental changes to our core views for the global or LatAm economy, following President Trump's plan to slap hefty tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, potentially escalating into a global trade war.
The MXN came under pressure last week as news broke that Banxico Governor Agustin Carstens plans to resign next year. Mr. Carstens has led the bank since 2010; during his term, Banxico cut interest rates to record low levels and managed to keep inflation under control.
The Brazilian economy has been recovering at a decent pace in recent months. The labor market is on the mend, with the unemploymen t rate falling rapidly to 12.5% in August from 14% at the end of Q1.
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.
Punished by the global economic slowdown depressing commodity prices, the Mexican economy is now making a gradual comeback, thanks to the continuing strength of its main trading partner, increasing public expenditure on key infrastructure projects, and accommodative monetary policy.
The Mexican economy shrank by 0.2% quarter-on-quarter in Q2, according to the final GDP report, a tenth better than the preliminary reading. The year-over-year rate rose marginally to 2.5% from 2.4% in Q1. But the year-over-year data are not seasonally adjusted, understating the slowdown in the first half of the year, as shown in our first chart.
The macro data reported in Brazil this week added weight to the view that the economy ended the second quarter in a severe recession. Brazil's retail sales fell 0.4% month-to-month in June, the fifth consecutive contraction. The broad retail index, which includes vehicles and construction materials, fell 0.8% month-to-month, with a sharp contraction in auto sales, down 2.8%.
Peru's central bank, the BCRP, capitulated to the sharp PEN depreciation this year--and acceleration of inflation--and unexpectedly increased interest rates by 25bp to 3.50% last Thursday, for the first time since January. This was a brave step, showing that policymakers are extremely worried about the pace of inflation, despite activity still running below potential. The BCRP argues, though, that activity will accelerate during the coming quarters, so they need now to control inflation by anchoring expectations.
Mexican industrial activity started the fourth quarter badly. Industrial production fell 0.1% month- to-month in October, pushing the year-over-year rate slightly up to -1.1% from -1.2% in September and -0.7% in Q3.
Yesterday's Mexican industrial data painted a downbeat picture of the sector at the end of last year, and highlighted the downside risks facing the economy in the first half of this year. Industrial output fell 0.1% month-to-month and was flat year over-year in December, with weakness in all sectors except manufacturing. Overall, industrial activity expanded by only 0.2% year-over-year in the fourth quarter, the slowest pace since late 2013.
Inflation pressures in Brazil are now well- contained, with the headline rate falling to a decade low in July. We think inflation is now close to bottoming out, but the current benign rate strengthens our base case forecast for a 100bp rate cut at the next policy meeting, in September.
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.
Upbeat survey data, a competitive MXN, and the strong U.S. manufacturing sector indicate that Mexican industry should be rebounding.
Two key points can be extracted from the minutes of the last BCB meeting, when policymakers increased the Selic interest rate by 50bp to 12.75%. First, the bank recognized that the balance of risks to inflation has deteriorated, due to the huge adjustment of regulated prices and the BRL's depreciation, but it specifically referred only to "this year" in the communiqué.
Brazil's recovery has been steady in recent months, and Q1 likely will mark the end of the recession. The gradual recovery of the industrial and agricultural sectors has been the highlight, thanks to improving external demand, the lagged effect of the more competitive BRL, and the more stable political situation, which has boosted sentiment.
Mexican retail sales jumped 1.0% month-to-month in October, the biggest gain since February, following a poor performance in Q3.
Most central banks in LatAm have ended the year in a relatively comfortable position; their economies are improving and inflation is under control or even falling.
Upbeat survey data and relatively resilient consumer spending numbers indicate that the Mexican economy is in good shape, despite a marginal slowdown in most of Q2.
The Mexican labor market has remained relatively healthy in recent months, despite many external and domestic headwinds. Formal employment has increased by 2.1% year-to-date and by 3½% in the year to July, according to the Mexican Social Security Institute.
While we were out, Brazil's economic, fiscal and political position continued to deteriorate further. The recession deepened in the fourth quarter, with Brazil's economic activity index surprising yet again to the downside in October, falling for the eight consecutive month. The index fell 0.6% month-to-month and 6.4% year-over-year, the biggest contraction since the index began in 2004. And the prospects for first quarter consumption and industrial output have deteriorated substantially. Unemployment increased further in November, and inflation continues to rise, with the mid-month CPI--the IPCA-15 index-- increasing 1.2% month-to-month in November, after a 0.9% increase in October.
The tumultuous political and economic crises in Brazil continue to feed off each other, grabbing most of the LatAm headlines. Sentiment will remain depressed, and volatility and uncertainty will persist, hampering any real signs of stabilization in the near-term. The Pacific Alliance countries, by contrast, managed to grow at relatively solid rates during the first half of this year, after absorbing the hit from falling commodity prices.
The busy electoral calendar that lies ahead for the region is beginning to come into focus. Colombia kicks off the process, followed by Mexico and Brazil.
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.
Recent industrial data for Mexico point to renewed upside risks for GDP growth, despite the likely headwind to consumption from high inflation and depressed confidence.
On Monday we highlighted the grim state of the Brazilian industrial sector, where output fell by a huge 5.8% year-over-year in November. By contrast, the outlook for Mexico's industrial sector is much brighter.
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.
Mexico's central bank, Banxico, last night capitulated again, reacting to the depreciation of the MXN by increasing interest rates by 50bp--for the fourth time this year--to 5.25%.
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.
Banxico left Mexico's benchmark interest rate at a record low of 3% last week, maintaining its neutral tone and indicating that the balance of risks has worsened for growth, while the risks for future inflation are unchanged. Policymakers acknowledged the external headwinds to the Mexican economy, but underscored that private consumption has gathered strength thanks to improving employment, low inflation, higher overseas remittances, and better credit conditions.
Banxico delivered its fifth 50bp rise of 2016 last Thursday, taking Mexico's main interest rate to 5.75%, its highest level since early 2009. Markets expected a 25bp increase, not least because the MXN has been relatively stable since Banxico's previous meeting in November.
Markets are still discounting Banxico rate increases in the near term, despite the fact that Mexico's inflation is under control. Unless the MXN goes significantly above 18.7 per USD in the near term, or activity accelerates, we see little scope for rate increases until after the Fed hikes. After May's soft U.S. payrolls, and in light of the economic and financial risk posed by the U.K. referendum, we think a hike this week is unlikely.
Industrial production in Mexico surged 2.6% year-over-year in February, up from a 0.8% increase in January. A favourable calendar effect, however, is a key part of this story. Once adjusted for the leap year, which added an extra working day, industrial production rose only 0.8%, down from a 1.6% expansion in January.
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.
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.
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.
Today's advance Q3 GDP report for Mexico will show that the economy performed relatively well at the start of the second half, despite external and domestic shocks.
Brazilian inflation hit its lowest rate in almost seven years in March, while Mexico's rate is the highest since July 2009. Yet we expect Mexico to tighten policy only modestly in the near term, while Brazil will ease rapidly.
Mexico's underlying inflation pressures and financial conditions are gradually stabilizing. Eventually, this will open the door for rate cuts in order to ease the stress on the domestic economy, particularly capex.
Industrial activity in Mexico had a very poor start to the third quarter. Output plunged 1.0% month-to- month in July, the biggest drop since May 2015, pushing the year-over-year rate down to -1.5%, from -0.2% in June.
Mexico's central bank continues to diverge from its regional peers, tightening monetary policy further.
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.
Before this week's earthquake, the resilience of Mexico's economy in the face of a volatile and challenging global backdrop owed much to the strength of domestic demand, especially private consumption.
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.
Mexico's survey data have improved significantly over the last few months, reaching levels last since before Donald Trump won the U.S. election in November. This suggest that the economy is in much better shape than feared earlier this year. Consumer confidence, for instance, has continued its recovery.
Mexico's economy hit a sticky patch in the first quarter, with confidence slipping, employment growth slowing and the downward trend in unemployment stalling. Indeed, the headline unemployment rate rose to 4.5% in May from 4.3% in April. The seasonally adjusted rate, though, was little changed at 4.4%, with a stable participation rate.
Mexico's inflation has started to edge higher due mainly to an unfavorable base effect and pressures on food prices. The bi-weekly headline CPI for the first half of February edged up to 2.9% year-over-year and up from 2.7% in January and the record low of 2.3% in December.
Good news keeps on coming from Mexico, and the outlook is still favourable. Overall inflation pressures remain subdued and the domestic economy remains reasonably solid, despite a modest slowdown in recent months. Job creation remains robust, and real wages have been growing at a solid, non-inflationary pace.
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.
Banxico's Quarterly Inflation Report--QIR--for Q4 2016, published this week, confirmed that the monetary authority is concerned about the slowing pace of economic activity and rising inflation pressures. Banxico noted that signs of a recovery have emerged in external demand, but it also pointed out that the Trump administration might impose policies which would hit FDI flows into Mexico.
Mexico's central bank left its main interest rate unchanged last week, citing the need for cautious monetary policy as the economy has lost some momentum during the first months of the year, despite the risk of inflation pass-though effects from the weaker MXN.
Banxico's quarterly inflation report, released last week, underscored concerns over growth as well as the weakness of the MXN and the risks p osed by the Fed's imminent tightening. Policymakers downgraded Mexico's GDP forecast for 2017 to 2.3-to-3.3% year-over-year, from 2.5-to-3.5%. Weaker-than-expected U.S. manufacturing activity is behind the downshift.
LatAm, particularly Mexico, has dealt with Donald Trump's presidency better than expected thus far. Indeed, the MXN rose 10.7% against the USD in Q1, the stock market has recovered after its initial post-Trump plunge, and risk metrics have eased significantly.
The manufacturing indexes for January showed a small improvement for the biggest economies in LatAm: Brazil and Mexico. In Brazil, the PMI manufacturing index increased marginally to 50.7 in December from 50.2 in November, thanks to stronger output and new orders components, which rose together for the first time in ten months.
Yesterday's first estimate of full-year 2017 GDP in Mexico indicates that growth was relatively resilient, despite domestic and external threats and the hit from the natural disasters over the second half of the year.
Economic activity in Mexico during the past few months has been relatively resilient, as external and domestic threats appear to have diminished.
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.
Consumers' spending in Mexico was relatively resilient at the end of Q1, but we think it will slow in the second quarter. Data released this week showed that retail sales rose a strong-looking 6.1% year-over-year in March, well above market expectations, and up from 3.6% in February.
Mexico's economy continues to withstand several headwinds, especially the sharp currency depreciation--shown in our first chart--falling commodity prices, and the tough external environment. The country is still one of the economic bright spots in the region, thanks to its resilient domestic demand. June retail sales rose 5.4% year-over-year, well above expectations, and up from 4.1% in May. The underlying trend is positive, averaging 4.8% in the second quarter, well above its 2014 pace.
Mexico's policymakers are battling two opposing forces. First, inflation pressures are rising, on the back of the one-time increase in petrol prices and the lagged effect of the MXN's sell-off in Q4. These factors are pushing short-term inflation expectations higher, even though the MXN has remained relatively stable since President Trump took office and has risen by about 6% against the USD year-to-date.
Senior International Economist Andres Abadia on mexico
Mexico's economy gathered momentum in Q3, thanks mainly to solid gains in industrial and services activity. Real GDP rose 0.8% quarter-on-quarter in Q3, the fastest pace since Q3 2013 and the ninth consecutive increase. Year-over-year growth rose to 2.6% year-over-year, from 2.3% in Q2. In short, a positive report, surprising to the upside, and above the INEGI's advance estimate, released in late October.
Retail sales in Mexico plunged at the end of Q4, but we think households' spending will continue to contribute to GDP growth in the first quarter.
Andres Abadia on Mexico GDP Growth
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.
Senior International Economist Andres Adabia on Mexico Inflation
Brazil's external accounts were the bright spot last year, once again, but the ne ws will soon take a turn for the worse. The current account deficit fell to just USD24B last year, or 1.3% of GDP, from USD59B in 2015. The improvement was driven by the trade surplus, which rose to USD48B, the highest since 1992, when the comparable data series begins. A 20% plunge in imports, coupled with a mere 3% dip in exports, explain the rising trade surplus.
The bad economic news in Brazil is unstoppable. The mid-month CPI index rose 1.3% month-to-month in February, as education, housing, and transport prices increased. School tuition fees jumped 6% month-to-month in February, reflecting their annual adjustment, and transport costs rose by 2% due to an increase in regulated gasoline prices.
Financial market performance and economic survey data on the Brazilian economy have been better than many investors and commentators feared this year. The composite PMI has improved gradually since November last year, consumer sentiment has stabilized, and national business surveys have been less bleak.
In Brazil, last week's formal payroll employment report for March was decent, with employment increasing by 56K, well above the consensus expectation for a 48K gain.
The bad news on economic activity keeps coming for Brazil. The formal payroll employment report-- CAGED--for December was very weak, with 120K net jobs eliminated, compared to a 40K net destruction in December 2014, according to our seasonal adjustment. The severe downturn has translated into huge job losses. The economy eliminated 1.5 million jobs last year, compared to 152K gains in 2014. Last year's job destruction was the worst since the data series started in 1992. The payroll losses have been broad-based, but manufacturing has been hit very hard, with 606K jobs eliminated, followed by civil construction and services. Since the end of 2014, the crisis has hit one sector after another.
Recent political and economic developments in Brazil make us more confidence in our forecast of a gradual recovery. On Wednesday, interim President Michel Temer scored his first victory in Congress, winning approval for his request to raise this year's budget target to a more realistic level. Under the new target, Brazil's government plans to run a budget gap, before interest, of about 2.7% of GDP this year.
Brazil's external accounts continue to be the country's bright spot, having improved considerably in recent quarters. The unadjusted current account deficit for January, USD4.8B, was lower than expected and much smaller than the USD12.2B shortfall a year earlier.
Brazilian inflation rate remained well under control at the start of this year, and we think the news will continue to be favorable for most of this year.
Mexican inflation fell sharply in the first two weeks of January, dipping by 0.2% from two weeks earlier, thanks to lower energy prices and a reduction in long-distance phone tariffs. Telecom reform explains about 15bp of the headline reduction.
Banxico raised its benchmark interest rate by another 25bp to 7.0% at last Thursday's policy meeting. This hike follows nine previous increases, totalling 375bp since December 2015, in order to put a lid on inflation expectations and actual inflation. Both have been lifted this year by the lagged effect of the MXN's weakness last year, the "gasolinazo", and the minimum wage increase in January.
The U.K.'s unexpected decision to vote to leave the E.U. will have serious ramifications for the global economy, and LatAm economies are unlikely to emerge unscathed. It is very difficult to quantify the short-term effects due to the intricacies of the financial transmission channels into the real economy.
This week's economic data for the Mexican economy have been encouraging, especially for Banxico, which left its main interest rate unchanged yesterday at 3.0%. Inflation remained on target for the second consecutive month in the first half of February, and the closely-watched IGAE economic activity index--a monthly proxy for GDP--continued to grow at a relatively solid pace, despite the big hit from lower oil prices.
The Brazilian labour market is slowly healing following the severe recession of 2015-16. The latest employment data, released last week, showed that the economy added 35K net jobs in August, compared to a 34K loss in August 2016.
The Colombian economy--the star of the previous economic cycle in LatAm--is now slowing significantly, due mostly to strong external headwinds. Exports plunged by 40% year-over-year in January, down from -29% in December, with all of the main categories contracting in the worst performance since 1980.
The rising trend in U.S. oil production was interrupted only briefly by the hurricanes.
Brazil's external accounts have recovered dramatically this year, and we expect a further improvement--albeit at a much slower pace--in the fourth quarter. The steep depreciation of the BRL last year, and the improving terms of trade due to the gradual recovery in commodity prices, drove the decline in the current account deficit in the first half.
Recent global developments lead us to intensify our focus on trade in LatAm.
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 Fed deferred, but did not cancel, the start of its rate normalization last week. As a consequence, December is now the most likely meeting for the first hike. The Fed's core view of the U.S. economy remains the same, but policymakers want a bit more time to see how global developments affect the U.S. Our Chief Economist, Ian Shepherdson, expects the strength of the employment data, better Chinese numbers and calm financial markets to prevent any further postponement beyond Q4.
Brazil's recovery has been steady in recent months, and Q1 likely will mark the end of the recession. The gradual recovery of the industrial and agricultural sectors has been the highlight, thanks to improving external demand, the lagged effect of the more competitive BRL, and the more stable political situation, which has boosted sentiment.
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.
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.
Banxico left its benchmark interest rate on hold at 7.0% at last Thursday's policy meeting.
Banxico's tightening cycle has totalled 400 basis points, lifting rates to 7.0%. Since late 2015, Banxico has followed the Fed closely, but other external factors also have guided many of its decisions.
LatAm's economies are gradually rebounding, boosted by easier monetary policy in most countries, falling inflation, and a relatively calm external backdrop.
With the MXN up more than 7% since the low of 21.9 against the dollar in January, investors are pondering just how high the Mexican currency can go. We believe that the MXN will continue to hover around its recent range, 20.1-to-20.5, in the near term, but will come under pressure again as protectionist policies in the U.S. take real shape in the spring or summer.
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.
Yesterday's detailed Mexican GDP report confirmed that growth was resilient in Q1, despite external and domestic headwinds. GDP rose 0.7% quarter-on-quarter in Q1, in line with our expectation, but marginally above the first estimate, 0.6%.
Weakness across EM asset markets returned after the April FOMC minutes, released last week, suggested that a June rate hike is a real possibility. The risks posed by Brexit, however, is still a very real barrier to Fed action, with the vote coming just eight days after the FOMC meeting.
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.
Yesterday's detailed Mexican GDP report confirmed that growth was relatively resilient in Q2, despite the lagged effect of external and domestic headwinds.
Brazil's decision to keep interest rates at 14.25% on Wednesday was a surprise. The consensus forecast immediately before the meeting was for a 25bp increase. As recently as Tuesday, though, most forecasters expected a 50bp increase, following hawkish comments from Board members since the last meeting in November, and rising inflation expectations. But the day before the meeting, the IMF revised its forecast for 2016 GDP to -3.5%, much worse than the 1% drop it predicted in October.
Recent economic weakness in Brazil, particularly in the labor market, has strengthened our view that the central bank is close to the end of its painful, but necessary, tightening cycle. We expect the BCB to increase its policy rate by 50bp to 14.25% at next week's monetary policy meeting, and then leave the rate on hold for the foreseeable future.
Mexican consumers' spending improved toward the end of Q2. Retail sales jumped by 1.0% month-to-month in June, pushing the year-over-year rate up to 9.4%, from an already solid 8.6% in May. Still, private spending lost some momentum in the second quarter as a whole, rising by 2.5% quarter-on-quarter, after a 3.8% jump in Q1. A modest slowdown in consumers' spending had to come eventually, following surging growth rates in the initial phases of the recovery.
LatAm financial markets have performed solidly in the first sessions of the year, with most regional currencies trading more strongly against the USD.
Brazil's Monetary Policy Committee--Copom--increased the Selic rate by 50bp to 13.75% on Wednesday, as widely expected. The short statement was unchanged from the previous four meetings, indicating the decision was unanimous and without bias, maintaining uncertainty about the next steps. Many Copom members, especially its President, Alexandre Tombini, have signaled that they intend to persevere in their attempt to bring the inflation rate down to 4.5% by the end of 2016.
The apparently imminent imposition of 25% tariffs on imported steel and 10% on aluminum does not per se constitute a serious macroeconomic shock.
Global economic conditions have been improving for LatAm over recent quarters.
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 recovery of some key commodity prices, policy action in China, and stronger expectations that the U.S. Fed will start hiking rates later during the year, have helped reduce volatility in LatAm financial markets. Oil prices have rise by around 20% year-to-date, iron ore prices are up about 60% and copper has risen by 7%.
Brazil's manufacturing PMI edged down to a six-month low of 45.2 in December, from 46.2 in November. This marks a disappointing end to Q4, following a steady upward trend during the first half of the year, as shown in our first chart. December's new work index fell to 45.2 from 47.7 in November, driving a slowdown in production, purchases of materials, and employment. The new export orders index also deteriorated sharply in December, falling close to its lowest level since mid-2009.
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.
Friday's Brazil industrial production data were surprisingly upbeat. Output rose 0.1% month-to-month in July, slightly better than the consensus forecast for no change. July's modest gain was the fifth consecutive increase, confirming that industrial output in Brazil is stabilizing, and it paints a less grim picture of GDP growth at the start of Q3.
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.
Banxico's likely will deliver the widely-anticipated rate hike this Thursday. Policymakers' recent actions suggests that investors should expect a 50bp increase, in line with TIIE pric ing and the market consensus. The balance of risks to inflation has deteriorated markedly on the back of the "gasolinazo", a sharp increase in regulated gasoline prices imposed to raise money and attract foreign investment.
Last week's 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.
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.
The U.S. Presidential election will set the tone for LatAm's markets this week. Hillary Clinton's dwindling lead over Donald Trump in recent polls has unleashed pressure on EM assets.
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.
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.
Brazil's industrial sector continues to suffer, despite September's report surprising marginally on the upside. Output contracted 1.3% month-to-month in September, after a 0.9% fall in August, pushing the year over-year rate down to -10.9% down from -8.8% in August. This is the biggest drop since April 2009. Output has fallen an eye-popping -7.4% year-to-date, and in the third quarter alone activity contracted by 3.2% quarter-on-quarter, in line with our vie w for a 1.2% contraction in real GDP for the third quarter.
The Brazilian manufacturing sector remains very depressed by weak end-demand, but the misery is easing, at the margin. Industrial production fell 2.5% month-to-month in February, equivalent to an eye-watering 9.8% contraction year-over-year, but this was rather less bad than the 13.6% slump in January.
Brazil's recession has deepened. Overall, the economy has sunk into its worst slump in six years, and the recovery will be painful and slow. This is not surprising, but the sharper than expected 3% contraction over the first half of the year may have thrown a further bucket of cold water on President Rousseff, whose popularity ratings have fallen to a level not seen since 1992, when President Collor de Mello was forced out of office after being impeached for corruption. Real GDP in Brazil fell 1.9% quarter-on-quarter in Q2, much worse than the downwardly revised 0.7% contraction in Q1.
The publication yesterday of the first BCB quarterly inflation report under the new president, Ilan Golfajn, revealed his initial views on inflation, the currency, and monetary policy. Overall, Mr. Golfajn has taken a hawkish approach. We think Brazil's first rate cut will come no earlier than Q4, likely at the final meeting of the year, providing the government continues the fiscal consolidation process and inflation keeps falling.
LatAm currencies have risen against the USD so far this year, easing the upward pressure on imported good prices and allowing most central banks to cut interest rates. The first direct effects of stronger currencies should be felt by firms which import high-turnover intermediate or final goods.
In our Monitor on January 27 we speculated that the new U.S. administration would see Germany's booming trade surplus as a bone of contention. We were right. Earlier this week, Peter Navarro, the head of Mr. Trump's new National Trade Council, fired a broadside against Germany, accusing Berlin for using the weak euro to gain an unfair trade advantage visa-vis the U.S.
Another month, another bleak Brazilian labor market report. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased marginally to 8.3% in December, up from 8.2% in November, much worse than the 5.1% recorded in December 2014.
The publication yesterday of the BCB's second quarterly inflation report under the new president, Ilan Golfajn, revealed that inflation is expected to hit the official target next year, for the first time since 2009. The inflation forecast for 2017 was lowered from 4.7% to 4.4%, just below the central bank's 4.5% target.
Banxico's decisions throughout the past year have been guided by external forces, dominated by the persistent decline of the MXN against the USD and its potential impact on inflation. The MXN has fallen by almost 17% year-to-date and has dropped by an eye-watering 37% since 2014.
BanRep surprised everyone late Friday, moving ahead of the curve by starting a tightening cycle that had been expected to begin later in the year or in Q1. But the seven-board member succumbed in the face of persistent inflationary pressures, and voted unanimously to hike the main interest rate by 25bp to 4.75%, the first move since April 2014.
The second quarter is over but it is too early to give a reliable forecast of the pace of Brazilian GDP growth. However, an array of leading and coincident indicators points to a steep contraction in Q2 and a bleak second half of the year. Unemployment is leaping higher, along with inflation and household debt, and the ongoing monetary and fiscal tightening will further hurt the real economy ahead.
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 downturn in LatAm is finally bottoming out, but the economy of the region as a whole will not return to positive year-over-year economic growth until next year. The domestic side of the region's economy is improving, at the margin, thanks mainly to the improving inflation picture, and relatively healthy labor markets.
BanRep cut Colombia's key interest rate by 25 basis points last Friday, to 6.25%. We were expecting a bolder cut, as economic activity has been under severe pressures in recent months.
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
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.
The minutes from Banxico's August 11 monetary policy meeting--in which Board members unanimously voted to keep rates on hold at 4.25%--confirmed that the bank's policy guidance remains broadly neutral. Subdued economic activity, favourable inflation and gradual fiscal consolidation explain policymakers' position.
Policymakers in Colombia last Friday took aim at inflation by hiking interest rates by 50 basis points to 7.0%. The consensus expectation was for a 25bp increase. BanRep's bold move, which came on the heels of six consecutive 25bp increases since November, took Colombia's main interest rate to its highest level since March 2009.
Brazil's industrial sector continued to support the economy in Q3. The underlying tr end in output is rising and leading indicators point to further growth in the near term.
Multiple factors have shaken LatAm financial markets this week. China's market turmoil, commodity price oscillations, currency volatility, and political mayhem in every corner of the region, have all conspired against markets. But market chaos has also driven some central banks to rethink their monetary policy plans. For EM, in particular for LatAm, the stance of the Federal Reserve is key, given the region's close ties to the U.S., and the dollar.
Data released yesterday in Brazil are consistent with our view that private consumption will continue to drive the recovery over the second half, offsetting the ongoing weakness in private investment.
The latest IPCA inflation data in Brazil show the year-over-year rate fell to 8.8% in June from 9.3% in May. This is the slowest pace since May 2015, with inflation pulled lower by declines across all major components, except food. Indeed, food prices were the main driver of the modest 0.4% unadjusted monthto-month increase, rising by 0.7%, following a 0.8% jump in May. The year-over-year rate rose to 12.8% in June from 12.4%.
Recent data have added to the evidence that the Colombian economy stumbled in July. Retail sales plunged 3.3% year-over-year, from an already poor and downwardly revised 0.9% decline in June. The underlying trend is negative, following two consecutive declines, and July's data were the weakest since September 2009.
Brazil's consumer recession finally eased in November. Retail sales jumped 2.0% month-to- month, following an upwardly-revised 0.3% drop in October, and the year-over-year rate rose to -3.5% from -8.1%. November's astonishing performance probably reflects seasonal adjustment problems related to Black Friday discounting. Sales have climbed in the last four Novembers, suggesting that consumers' pre-Christmas spending patterns have shifted permanently.
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.
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.
Brazil's headline CPI has been well above the upper limit of the BCB's target zone since January 2015. We expect this situation will continue for some time, due to the lagged effect of last year's sharp increases in regulated prices, El Niño, the BRL's sell-off in 2015, and, especially, widespread price indexation.
Mexican inflation pressures eased towards the start of Q2. Inflation fell to 2.5% year-over-year in April from 2.6% in March, due to a sharp fall in energy inflation--as a result of the introduction of new electricity tariffs in the warm season--and a fall in the rate of increase of fresh food prices. Depressed energy prices will continue to constrain inflation in coming months, but base effects will reduce the drag later this year.
Brazil's benchmark inflation index, the IPCA, rose 0.7% month-to-month in May, above market expectations. The stickiness of some components explains the surprise upshift; food prices in particular rose by 1.4% in May, after a 1% increase in April. Housing also rose at a faster rate than we had expected, due mainly to a 2.8% jump in the electricity component, the largest single contributor to May's headline increase.
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.
Friday's inflation report for Brazil confirmed that inflation is rapidly falling towards the BCB's target range, helping to make the case for stepping up the pace of monetary easing to 50bp at the Copom's January meeting.
Brazil's benchmark inflation index, the IPCA, rose 0.5% unadjusted month-to-month in July, pushing the year-over-year rate down marginally to 8.7%, from 8.8% in June. Overall inflation pressures in Brazil are easing, especially in regulated prices, which have been the main driver of the disinflation trend this year. But market-set prices are still causing problems.
This year, Brazil has been the perfect example of all the problems faced by EM countries over the last few decades. A long and deep recession, high inflation, fiscal crisis, political chaos, a commodity price crunch, sharp currency depreciation and lack of confidence have all worked together to hammer the economy and investor confidence. These factors all contributed to S&P downgrading Brazil to junk status on Wednesday.
Brazil's inflation rate is in double digits for the first time in 12 years. The benchmark IPCA price index rose 1.0% month-to-month in November, lifting the year-over-year rate to 10.5%, the highest since November 2003. The core IPCA increased 0.7% month-to-month, pushing the year-over-year rate in November up to 8.9% from 8.6% in October.
Mexican economic growth was subdued during the first half of the year, and we expect it to remain weak over the coming months. The economy has been held back largely by external headwinds, especially low oil prices and disruptions to activity in the US, its main trading partner.
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.
The fact that Brazilian economy shrank in the first quarter was never in doubt; what really mattered was the pace of contraction. Surprisingly; the decline was just 0.2% quarter-on-quarter in Q1, above market expectations, but still down after the meagre 0.3% gain in Q4.
Brazil's economic news remained grim at the headline level last week, but some of the details were less bad than in recent months. Industrial production fell by 13.8% year-over-year in January, down from the 12.1% drop in December and the worst performance on this basis since mid-2009.
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.
While we were out, monetary policy in Latin America was unchanged, except in Brazil, where the Monetary Policy Committee--Copom--this week raised the Selic rate by 50bp to 13.25%, in line with expectations. Looking ahead, we now expect no changes in policy in Brazil or elsewhere over the next few months, or at least until the Fed starts hiking rates.
Banxico's Quarterly Inflation Report--QIR--for Q2 2017, published this week, confirmed that the central bank has become more upbeat about the economic recovery and the outlook for inflation. Banxico believes that the balance of risks to inflation and growth are neutral.
We expect Banxico to keep interest rates on hold at 7.50% at Thursday's meeting. But policymakers likely will adopt a slightly dovish tone, as inflation has fallen faster than they were expecting in their recent forecast.
Brazil's industrial sector had a relatively good start to the year. Data on Wednesday showed that production fell 0.1% month-to-month in January, less than markets expected, and the year-over-year rate rose to 1.4%, after a 0.1% drop in December.
Note: This updates our initial post-election thoughts, adding more detail to the fiscal policy discussion. Apologies for the density of the text, but there's a lot to say. Our core conclusions have not changed since the election result emerged. The biggest single economic policy change, by far, will be on the fiscal front.
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.
While we were out, Brazil's Monetary Policy Committee--Copom-- increased the Selic rate by 50bp to 14.25% on July 29th. The short statement indicated that the decision was unanimous and without bias. But it also signaled that the Copom is ready to end the tightening cycle if the data and, especially, the BRL, permit.
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.
Inflation appears no longer to be an issue for Mexican policymakers. The annual headline rate slowed to 3.0% year-over-year in February from 3.1% in January, in the middle of the central bank's target range, for the first time since May 2006.
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.
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.
Wednesday's better-than-expected, but still grim, November retail sales report in Brazil does not change the miserable underlying trend. Sales volumes rose 1.5% month-to-month, much better than expected, and the biggest increase in a year. But the year-over-year rate fell to -7.8% from -5.7% in October. The details underscored our view that the month-to-month jump in sales was due mostly to temporary factors.
We have set out in recent Monitors the differences in the economic and political environment across Latin America, but the plunge in oil prices adds a new element to the analysis.
This week's economic activity data for Brazil have been upbeat, indicating that the economy is recovering after a recession in the first half of 2014, but at a very gradual pace.
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.
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.
NAFTA-related news has been mixed over the last few weeks.
The Mexican peso and the Mexican stock market were hit this week after a poll showed that the Republican presidential candidate, Mr. Donald Trump, is leading in Ohio, a bellwether state in US presidential elections. After the poll's release, the MXN, which has been trading at about 18.9 to the USD, shot up to around 19.2.
The Mexican peso and spreads have recently come under severe pressure. Last week, for instance, the MXN plummeted 2% against the USD to 18.9, the weakest level since May, as our first chart shows.
Consumers' spending in Brazil weakened at the end of Q4, but we think households will support GDP growth in the first quarter.
Wednesday's Mexican industrial production report was upbeat for manufacturing, but it revealed that the oil and public construction sectors remain under severe strain.
Selling pressure in LatAm markets after Donald Trump's election victory eased when the dollar rally paused earlier this week. Yesterday, the yield on 10- year Mexican bonds slipped from its cycle high, and rates in other major LatAm economies also dipped slightly.
The Fed rate hike on Wednesday is fully priced in to LatAm markets, so we expect no significant immediate reaction when the trigger is pulled. But as markets gradually come around to our view that future U.S. rate risk is to the upside, markets will come under renewed pressure.
The recession in Brazilian consumers' spending continues, but the severity of the pain is easing. Retail sales plunged 0.9% month-to-month in March, pushing the year-over-rate down to -5.7%, from a revised -4.2% in February. The March headline likely was depressed by the early Easter.
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.
Activity in the Mexican industrial sector cooled marginally at the start of the second quarter, but the drop was not as dramatic as the headlines suggested. Output fell 4.4% year-over-year in April, after a 3.4% increase in March.
Mexican industrial production data for August were a little stronger-than-expected. Output rose 1.0% year-over-year, for the second consecutive month, and marginally higher than the 0.6% average growth in the second quarter. The rise in production in August is encouraging, especially the strong manufacturing component, which accounts for about half of all output.
Mexican manufacturing data continue to offer a counterweight to strong consumers' spending and services numbers. Output in the key manufacturing sector contracted by 0.2% month-to-month in September, due mainly to severe external headwinds. But the year-over-year rate was unchanged at 3.3%, with a flat underlying trend. Total industrial output, by contrast, rose 0.4% month-to-month in September, pushing the year-over-year rate up to 1.7%, from an upwardly-revised 1.1% gain in August.
Banxico decided unanimously to hold its benchmark interest rate at 7.0% at last Thursday's policy meeting.
The medium-term outlook in most LatAm economies is improving, though economic activity is likely to remain anaemic in the near term. The gradual recovery in commodity prices is supporting resource economies, while the post-election surge in global stock prices has boosted confidence. But country-specific domestic considerations are equally relevant; the growth stories differ across the region.
The consumer in Brazil was off to a strong start to the first quarter, and we expect household spending will continue to boost GDP growth in the near term.
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.
Peru's central bank, the BCRP, kept borrowing costs at 3.25% last week, surprising the consensus forecast for a 25bp increase. This was an unexpected move because inflation risks have not abated much since the previous meeting, when policymakers lifted rates for the third straight month.
Brazil's retail sales data undershot consensus in August, falling by 0.5% after four straight gains. But we think this merely a temporary softening, following the strong performance in recent months.
Peru's central bank, the BCRP, admitted defeat again in the face of the inflationary effects of the PEN's depreciation and El Niño, increasing interest rates by 25bp to 3.75% last Thursday, following its 25bp increase in September. Peru is the third LatAm economy in the last few months to raise rates in response to currency weakness, despite sluggish economic growth. The key problem for Peru is that inflation has been trending higher since early 2013 and has remained stubbornly high, above 2.8% all this year. "Temporary" factors just keep on coming.
The Mexican economy had a decent start to the year thanks to resilient domestic demand, but hampered by the rollover in capital spending in the oil sector and the slowdown in manufacturing activity. Economic activity expanded 2.2% year-over-year in the second quarter, down from 2.6% in the first quarter, but the underlying trend remains reasonably solid.
Last week's industrial report confirmed that the Mexican economy softened at the end of the second quarter. Industrial production was unchanged year- over-year in June, calendar-and seasonally adjusted, down marginally from +0.1% in May.
The minutes of Banxico's November 9 policy meeting were released yesterday, in which the Bank left the reference rate unanimously unchanged at 7.0%.
For the MXN, last year was especially harsh. The currency endured extreme volatility, plunging 17% against the USD. So far, this year is off to a rocky start too. The MXN fell close to 2.5% during the first week of 2017.
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 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.
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.
Banxico left Mexico's benchmark interest rate at 3.75% on Thursday, maintaining its neutral tone and indicating that the balance of risks is unchanged for both inflation and growth. Policymakers remain confident that inflation will remain under control over the coming months, below 3%, but noted that they expect a brief increase above the target during Q4.
LatAm investors' concerns about U.S. monetary policy expectations and the broad direction of the USD should on the back burner until the Fed hikes again, likely in September. This will leave room for country-specific drivers to take centre stage. That should support Mexico's MXN, which already has risen 14% year-to-date against the USD, erasing its losses after the US election last November.
Mexico's central bank likely will pause its monetary tightening on Thursday, keeping the main rate at 6.5%. A hike this week would follow five consecutive increases, totalling 350bp since December 2015, when policymakers were first overwhelmed by the MXN's sell-off.
We expect growth in Latin America--except Mexico--to improve in 2017, especially during the second half...
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.
November's inflation data in Mexico, showing a modest increase in the headline rate, have strengthened the case for further monetary tightening. But we stick to our long-standing view that the Board will leave rates at 7.0% on Thursday.
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.
Last week, the Bank of Mexico unanimously voted to leave the main rate on hold, at 7.50%, its highest level since early 2009.
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.
EU-Japan free trade: Japan and the European Union agreed on an outline for a massive trade deal this week that will rival the size of NAFTA, the free trade accord that the United States has with Canada and Mexico, currently the largest one in the world. Claus Vistesen, the chief eurozone economist with Pantheon Macroeconomics, assesses what's in the agreement and why it matters (19mins 10 secs).
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