Category Archives: Inflation

Brazil is out of recession. But should you buy it?

President Michel Temer and economic ministers will celebrate the growth of 1% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the first quarter of this year, compared to Q4 of 2016, excluding seasonal factors. When they do this, they will actually be celebrating the growth of agriculture and foreign demand (exports). Domestic demand – household consumption and investments – continued to fall and with worse results than expected.In the economists’ estimates, GDP would grow, on average, 0.9% in the first quarter of 2017 QoQ, in the seasonally adjusted series. Here, the recorded growth of 1% was slightly higher. But economists predicted 9.4% growth in agriculture and the GDP brought a rise of 13.4%. In industry, the result was also better, of 0.9% against a forecast of 0.8%. The services sector remained stable, but the expectation was a growth of 0.3%.

It is on the demand side that the GDP has been more frustrating. Economists projected the first increase (of 0.4%) after eight consecutive quarters of falling household consumption. The IBGE indicated, however, a further retraction of 0.1%, postponing the recovery. And the investment retreat was much deeper than expected. Estimates indicated a small decline of 0.3%, but the reality was cruel and the figure was negative at 1.6%. All comparisons are QoQ, minus the seasonal effects.

Weak domestic demand is also clear in trade data, down 0.6% from the end of last year.

The government may even celebrate the outcome, but from the standpoint of indicating a domestic recovery, GDP in the first quarter was worse than expected. And the political crisis and the signal issued yesterday by the Monetary Policy Committee (Copom) that the interest rate down trend will slow down, act to further delay the good news, so long awaited.

Brazilian IGPM shows second month of deflation

The General Market Price Index – (IGP-M) recorded deflation of 0.93% in May, after falling 1.10% a month earlier, according to the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV). It is the lowest rate for May months since the beginning of the indicator series in 1989. It is also the third lowest variation for all months of the series, with June 2003 and April 2017 being the lowest ones. In May 2016, the indicator, which serves as a reference for the readjustment of contracts such as rent, rose 0.82%.The fall in the fifth month of 2017 was driven by wholesale deflation, especially industrial products, and by the slowdown in consumer price hikes. The decline of 0.93% was higher than the 0.82%, on average, estimated by economists. The range of estimates was for a decline between 0.74% and 0.89%.

In the year, the IGP-M decreased by 1.29%. In 12 months, it rises only 1.57%, compared to analysts’ forecast of 1.69%.

How to make sense of Brazilian inflation indexes?

Brazilian Economy shrinks 0.51% in May, according to the Central Bank

The Brazilian economy has not confirmed the brief improvement in April. The Economic Activity Index Central Bank (IBC-Br) fell 0.51% in May, after growing 0.07% in April (revised), which was the first increase in 15 months. In the year, the decline was a significant 5.79%.

In the 12 months ending in May, the IBC-Br indicates a decrease of 5.43% in the series without adjustment and 5.51% in the adjusted data. Due to the constant indicator review, the IBC-Br measured for 12 months is more stable than the monthly measurement. Compared with May 2015, there was a low of 4.91% in the series without adjustment and 5.32% with adjustment.

The results came worse than expected by the market players. The average of forecasts made by 21 financial institutions suggested a decrease of 0.24% in the month. Estimates ranged from a decrease of 0.9% and increase of 0.1% for the monthly variation.

In the June Inflation Report, the central bank projected a drop of 3.3% in the GDP for 2016, against the previous forecast of a 3.5% decline. Analysts consulted for making the Focus Bulletin also point to a decrease of 3.3% for the Brazilian economy this year.

EWZ: Ibovespa has its best semester since 2009 and US$ drops 18.6% versus the Brazilian Real

Brazilian’s most traded stock ETF in the US, EWZ soared 46.5% in the same 6 months:

EWZ-6-Months

In the beginning of the year, the perspective for the Brazilian market was not good with the country in recession and inflation sky rocketing. However, in the middle of February, the inflection started fueled by a global recover in commodities prices and an improvement in the expectations for the economic policies, which became known as the impeachment rally.

Besides, the downside event of the semester, the Brexit, was followed by an unexpected help which were the speculations that central banks all over the world will stimulate their economies to face market volatility. On Friday, the president of England’s central bank, Mark Carney, said that the growth in the UK will slow down in the next months and additional interest rate cuts and other measures of monetary ease will be necessary.

Sure, Brazil is not out of the woods yet and the new government still has lots to do to recover the economy. However, the better economic climate has started to translate into improvements in the confidence:

Consumer and Industry Confidence in Brazil

Besides the more favorable political environment, what is also helping in this confidence growth is the fact that some economic indicators are improving, albeit still very bad: IBC-Br, Industry and Services.

What to Expect for Brazilian Interest Rate in 2016

Monetary Policy Committee (COPOM) has decided to keep the Brazilian interest rate benchmark in Brazil (SELIC) at 14.25% a year, unanimously. The central bank repeated the note issued with the previous decision, in which it says “we see advances in the inflation fighting but the still elevated cost of living and expectations are out of the target”.

Even with the repeated note, economists started to review their opinions about when the interest rate will go down again. The last meeting was still ran by central bank president Alexandre Tombini. Now, Ilan Goldfajn will be the one responsible  to deal with variables like economic recession and inflation. Inflation, by the way, that was showing signs of reduction but has again showed resilience.

According to newspaper Folha de São Paulo, despite inflation have shown acceleration in May, the interim government of Michel Temer believes that the fall in the US Dollar exchange rate and the credibility of the new economic team opens space for a reduction in the SELIC. The government is working under the assumption of inflation declaration by year end as well as a further drop in the US$. According to the report, Folha’s initial forecast was for a drop in the interest rate in July but now this may be postponed till August.

And that review in expectation was also followed by other investment banks, such as Goldman Sachs and Bradesco. Bradesco now believes the interest rate benchmark will end the year at 12.75% versus 12.25% before.

El-Erian says Brazil in ‘delicate situation’

Mohamed El-Erian’s bet on Brazil before President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s election in 2002 was rewarded by a surge in the nation’s assets in the following years. More than a decade later, he says Latin America’s largest economy must seize the opportunity to undertake deep reforms.Brazil is facing the worst recession in a century amid a corruption scandal that’s ensnared some of its biggest companies and prevented Congress from focusing on measures to stimulate growth. After a selloff in 2015, the Ibovespa and the real are posting the best gains in the world this year, with bonds climbing more than twice the average for emerging markets and credit risk tumbling amid wagers that President Dilma Rousseff would be impeached and a new government would take over.

“Brazil now finds itself in a delicate situation, and one that threatens the well-being of both the current and future generations,” Mr. El-Erian, the chief economic adviser at Allianz SE, said in an e-mail to Bloomberg. “If the political class does not respond with a comprehensive set of policy measures, the country will be vulnerable to a prolonged recession, inflationary pressures, worse and spreading poverty, and gradually increasing internal and external financial pressures.”

While Brazil’s consumer and investor confidence levels have rebounded recently, they’re near historic lows as borrowing costs remain at the highest since 2006 to curb above-target inflation. Economists including Alberto Ramos of Goldman Sachs Group and former Brazil central bank director Alexandre Schwartsman have said the country needs to reform its social security and pension system as part of measures to shore up fiscal accounts.

Should the needed reforms happen, either at the hands of Ms. Rousseff’s government or the next administration, the real could rise beyond what analysts are now forecasting, Mr. El-Erian said. The currency will fall 11% to end the year at 4.15 per dollar, according to the median estimate of 51 strategists surveyed by Bloomberg. The real lost 0.2% or 3.6910 per dollar as of 11:18 a.m. EDT Thursday.

Mr. El-Erian, who previously worked as the co-chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management Co., added to the firm’s Brazil holdings in 2002 as the country’s benchmark bonds plunged amid concern Ms. Rousseff would default after taking office. While the strategy put him at odds with investors including billionaire George Soros, it gave PIMCO’s Emerging Markets Bond Fund its best year since it was created in 1997 as Brazilian notes surged after the election.

In December, Mr. El-Erian said that the nation was going through a “house cleaning” that could hamper growth in the short term. Brazil’s economy is poised to shrink 3.5% in 2016, according to a central bank survey, adding to a 3.8% contraction last year.

“Brazil has an enormous potential, absolutely enormous”, Mr. El-Erian said. “What is missing is the political context that enables sustained policy implementation, coupled with broad-based understanding and support.”

Brazil’s Inflation Unexpectedly Slows as Recession Bites

Brazilian inflation unexpectedly slowed last month, beating forecasts from all analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, as food prices rose less than in the previous month amid a deepening recession.The benchmark IPCA inflation index moderated to 0.96 percent in December from 1.01 percent in November, the national statistics agency said Friday. That compares to the median 1.05 percent estimate from economists surveyed by Bloomberg. 

“It’s good news in the near-term, but not something that shows clearly that core prices will be trending down,” Carlos Kawall, chief economist at Banco Safra, said about slowing inflation. “The fact that it came mostly from food prices doesn’t show that we can celebrate this.” 

Brazil missed its 2015 target as annual inflation accelerated to 10.67 percent, the fastest for a full year since 2002 and more than double the midpoint of the official target range of 2.5 percent to 6.5 percent. As a result, central bank President Alexandre Tombini had to publish an open letter to the government explaining why he fell short.

Inflation isn’t expected to fall within range this year either, even as the deepening recession and higher borrowing costs chip away at Brazilians’ purchasing power. Leading economists forecast policy makers will redouble efforts to contain consumer prices by embarking on a new round of monetary policy tightening as early as this month.

Traders agree, as swap rates on the contract due in April 2016 rose 2 basis points to 14.66 percent on Friday. The real strengthened 0.5 percent to 4.0248 per U.S. dollar amid improved appetite for emerging-market assets. It dropped 33 percent last year, the worst performer among all 31 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg after the Argentine peso.

The real’s depreciation fueled inflation last year, as did the rising price of government-regulated items, Tombini wrote in his open letter to Finance Minister Nelson Barbosa. He reiterated his commitment to reach the 4.5 percent target in 2017, while Barbosa said in a statement that the government would contribute with fiscal policy and measures designed to boost productivity.

“No matter what happens with other policies, the central bank will adopt the measures needed to meet the target,” Tombini wrote.

Banco Safra’s Kawall expects a 150 basis-point tightening cycle this year, starting in January. Higher interest rates would be a bitter medicine for an economy headed to a deep two-year recession, forecast to be the worst since at least 1901. Fearing more job losses, members of President Dilma Rousseff’s Workers’ Party have publicly opposed additional increases to borrowing costs. December data strengthens the case for holding off, according to Enestor dos Santos, principal economist at BBVA.

“We should be more patient and wait for more data, but in my view it takes some pressure off the central bank,” Dos Santos said. “Inflation peaked in December and it will start to decline from January. I think this would not be the best moment for the central bank to tighten monetary policy.”

Deeper Recession

The central bank has held the Selic rate at a nine-year high even as Brazil’s recession deepened. The slump contributed to slower price increases for food and beverages as well as housing. The biggest single contributor to inflation in the month was the price of airfare, a volatile component that rose 37.07 percent.

A rate increase at the January meeting of the monetary policy committee known as Copom isn’t a foregone conclusion, with banks including BBVA and Banco Fibra expecting no change. Higher borrowing costs would hurt investment more than contain inflation, and Brazil should instead consider raising its inflation target, Workers’ Party President Rui Falcao said in a Dec. 28 interview.

“Any dovish decisions in the next Copom meetings will spur market suspicion that the central bank is facing greater political interference, even if technical reasons for a more moderate approach exist,” Chris Garman, managing director at political consultancy Eurasia Group, wrote in a note before the release of the data.

Central Bank in Brazil Forcasts 2016 Inflation Above Target Ceiling

While there was a consensus among financial analysts that consumer inflation in Brazil would top ten percent this year, the latest report by the Central Bank (CB) shows that analysts’ forecasts for 2016 inflation are also above the target limit of 6.5 percent. According to financial institutions surveyed by the CB for its Focus Report, inflation in 2016 is likely to reach 6.64 percent.The Focus Report, released by the Central Bank on Friday shows that forecasts for the 2015 inflation increased for the 10th consecutive time, going from 10.04 percent to 10.33 percent. Now, according to the BC inflation is only expected to fall within the target range in 2017.

This is the first time analysts have forecast inflation above the government target for 2016. If analysts’ forecasts are confirmed for this year and next year, it will be the first time official inflation is registered above the target ceiling for two consecutive years since 2002-2003.

According to the government’s system the center of inflation target is 4.5 percent, with a two percent tolerance in each direction, so that consumer inflation falling anywhere between 2.5 percent and 6.5 percent is considered within the target.

Consumer inflation is one of the indexes taken into consideration by the CB’s Monetary Policy Committee (COPOM), when deciding the benchmark interest rate (SELIC). According to financial analysts surveyed by the CB for the Focus Report, the SELIC which has been increased for the past seven consecutive meetings, is likely to remain stable during the upcoming Committee meeting this week, at 14.25 percent. This will be the last meeting of the COPOM this year.

Other indexes, like the IPCA (Consumer Price Index) in Brazil, rose by 0.82 percent in October, and according to the IBGE (Brazilian Statistics Bureau) it the highest inflation for the month since 2002. In this index the inflation rate now accumulates an increase of 8.52 percent for the first ten months of the year, the highest for the period since 1996.

Foreign Investors Buy into Brazil, Lead M&A Activity

Brazilian companies are the cheapest they have been in years, presenting bargain hunters with prime buying opportunities.But foreign investors appear to be keener on the nation’s prospects than Brazilians, many of whom are spooked by the political turmoil that is worsening the nation’s economic slowdown.

Earlier this month, New York’s Coty Inc. agreed to pay $1 billion for the beauty-care unit of São Paulo-based Hypermarcas, expanding its presence in Latin America’s largest economy.

Through October, international investors such as Coty closed on 285 mergers and acquisitions in Brazil, up 5% from the first 10 months of 2014, according to data from PricewaterhouseCoopers. Brazilians, meanwhile, signed 275 deals this year, down 26% from the same period in 2014.

It is the first time since 2000 that foreigners have outpaced locals, according to Rogerio Gollo, partner and head of mergers and acquisitions in Brazil for Pricewaterhouse. “If you had asked me in January, I would not have told you this was coming,” he said.

What has turned the tide for many investors has been the weakening of the Brazilian currency by more than 30% to the dollar so far this year, which has helped foreign investors. In addition, the deepening of Brazil’s economic malaise—exacerbated by weakening political leadership—has hurt local companies.

Such cyclical booms and busts are common in emerging markets, and investors expect South America’s largest country by GDP to bounce back on the strength of its rising middle class and wealth of commodities. For those willing to endure some volatility, betting on Brazil now could pay off handsomely, said PwC’s Mr. Gollo.

“The buyer who is looking at Brazil with a horizon greater than three years is getting a good deal,” he said.

But the current picture is bleak. State involvement in key sectors and loose monetary policy unleashed during President Dilma Rousseff’s first term has left the government awash in debt and struggling to plug a massive budget hole. Reforms have taken a back seat as Brazil’s Congress focuses on the massive corruption scandal at state-run oil giant Petróleo Brasileiro SA, and impeachment efforts against the president.

“When you have a crisis of this magnitude, you need a vision…but the government does not have that,” said Ricardo Lacerda, founding partner and CEO of BR Partners, a boutique investment bank based in São Paulo.

As a result, business, consumer and investor confidence have collapsed. GDP growth is projected to contract by more than 3% this year. Urban unemployment recently hit a five-year high of 7.6%. Inflation is running at nearly 10%. Industrial production plunged nearly 11% in September from a year ago.

Among the hardest hit is Brazil’s auto industry. Vehicle sales through October totaled 2.15 million units, down 24% compared with the first 10 months of 2014. Thousands of auto workers have been laid off or furloughed. Some manufacturers who bet big on Brazil are putting on the brakes.

Chinese auto maker Chery Automobile Co., Ltd. is delaying a planned $300 million investment in its existing factory in the city of Jacareí, said Luis Curi, the company’s vice president in Brazil. Through October, Chery’s Brazil sales totaled 4,704 vehicles, down 38% from the first 10 months of 2014, according to the national auto-dealers association, Fenabrave.

Mr. Curi said the company has been hit by slumping demand and soaring prices for imported parts because of the weak real. “We’re living a perfect storm in Brazil,” he said.

In contrast, Honda Motor Co.’s Brazil sales have increased 15% to 125,061 vehicles so far this year, according to Fenabrave. But the Japanese auto maker, too, is retooling its investment plans amid concerns about the nation’s shaky economy and unpredictable politics.

The company said in late October it would delay the launch of a second Brazil vehicle-assembly plant that was slated to open in the first half of 2016. The new facility, which has been constructed in Itirapina in São Paulo state, will open “according to market developments,” Honda said in a statement. Paulo Takeuchi, director of institutional relations for Honda South America, said the auto maker remains confident about Brazil in the long-run, but is taking a cautious approach for now.

“What concerns us most is uncertainty, both political and economic,” Mr. Takeuchi said.

Brazil Bull Who Got It Right in 2002 Says This Time No Different

The selloff punishing Brazilian markets in recent months isn’t fazing Jerome Booth. He’s seen it before and says just like then, it’s way overdone.Yes, Brazil has serious problems. The country’s “a mess,” he says, with a massive corruption investigation at state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, a worsening fiscal outlook, the steepest recession in 25 years and a political system so fractured that needed reforms just aren’t getting done. That’s not to mention a credit-rating cut to junk and the currency’s plummet to a record low.

But there’s no chance the government is going to default, and politicians eventually will find the will to push through measures to shore up the budget and restore growth, Booth said in an interview in New York. The panic among investors is excessive, just like 13 years ago when bond prices collapsed along with the currency amid concern the front-runner in presidential elections would repudiate the government’s debt, said Booth. He was then head of research for Ashmore Investment Management, at the time one of the biggest dedicated emerging-market sovereign bond holders.

“You’ve got the classic ‘everything’s as bad as it can possibly be’” situation, said Booth, the chairman of New Sparta Asset Management, an investment company he started after leaving Ashmore in 2013. “But it’s all priced in now.”

Brazil’s overseas bonds are close to reaching bottom, according to Booth, after losing investors 8.3 percent this year. Only Zambia has posted worse returns among more than 60 emerging-market countries tracked by JPMorgan Chase & Co. indexes. Brazil’s currency, which gained 0.7 percent Monday as of 2:03 p.m. in New York, is still down 32 percent against the dollar this year, the most among major emerging markets.

After three sovereign rating cuts in the past three months, one of which cost Brazil its investment-grade rating, the government will put a “proper economic program” in place and restore investor confidence, Booth said.

“I would think it’s months rather than a year,” he predicted.

What makes Booth confident even as shops from BlackRock Inc. to Federated Investors Inc. and RBC Capital Markets see reasons to avoid Brazil?

Because he thinks most investors have overestimated the risk, just like in 2002. Back then, a selloff hit ahead of the presidential election as Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gained in the polls. The concern was that the former union leader and founder of the Workers’ Party would declare Brazil’s debt illegitimate. Observers worried the country was slipping backward just a decade after shaking off a legacy of hyperinflation and political instability to become one of the world’s brightest stars among developing nations.

The real plunged to a record low, average yields on the country’s bonds soared to more than 25 percent and the benchmark stock gauge tumbled 40 percent ahead of the vote.

“The hedge funds at that point had this view that there’s a thing called a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Booth said. “They knew one thing: If all their peers in New York were negative,” then Brazil “would fall over. I thought that was just nonsense.”

In fact, when Lula won, investors were rewarded. From his inauguration at the start of 2003 until he left office at the end of 2010, Brazil’s dollar-denominated bonds returned 256 percent, more than double the emerging-market average. Real-denominated notes advanced 520 percent in dollar terms, almost three times the average for peers. The currency more than doubled in value against the dollar, and stocks surged 500 percent.

While Booth had money at stake when he made his call in 2002, this time around he’s not investing in Brazil’s markets. After leaving Ashmore in May 2013, he established London-based New Sparta, through which he manages investments in U.K. phone company New Call Telecom and a magazine publisher, among other businesses. New Sparta funded the Drew Barrymore comedy “Miss You Already,” which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last month.

Still, from his vantage point, Booth says investors are too worried about developing countries. Emerging-market assets have dropped for most of this year amid concerns the Federal Reserve will raise rates and as the Chinese economy shows signs of deceleration.

“1998 was the last time when you had a systemic crisis which could have led to serial defaults over emerging markets,” Booth said. “We haven’t had that, and we’re not likely to have that again.”