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Brazilian Government Announces Economic Package with 12 Measures

President Michel Temer announced on Thursday (15) a new economic package with measures to stimulate the economy. Also taking part in the announcement were the house or representative’s president, Rodrigo Maia (DEM-RJ), Senate’s President Renan Calheiros (PMDB-AL), Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles and the Minister of Planning, Dyogo Oliveira.

Temer started the announcement saying that the goal is to stimulate growth and reduce unemployment. Before announcing the measures officially, the president commented on the approval of the PEC 241, which limits spending increases for the next 20 years, approved on Wednesday.

According to Temer, “these reforms aim to increase the growth of the Brazilian economy. We never ignored the difficulties that we would have when we took over the government, but we are succeeding in advancing these topics.”

Despite being positive for the economy, these 12 measures are seen as a desperate way to try and deviate the attention from the corruption investigations that are currently hitting Temer’s government right in the core. In any case, the measures are positive. To them:

Tax Debt Negotiation

Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles was responsible for giving more details on each of the measures. The first provides for tax debt negotiation for companies with debts due through November 30. Meirelles said that “any tax debt” is eligible, including social security. For debts that are being questioned in the Court, it is necessary to prove the desistance of the lawsuits.

“The program allows tax negotiations for companies that are preparing to grow again, as macroeconomic adjustment is under way,” said Meirelles.

Guaranteed Property Letter

Another measure, according to Meirelles, is the regulation of the “Letra Imobiliária Garantida”, an instrument of funding for real estate credit. The objective is to broaden the supply of long-term credit for civil construction.

Meirelles said that this type of bond, being both secure and long-term, is an “important alternative source for real estate lending and increases the supply of long-term lending to the industry.” This measure will have to go through public consultation and then be regulated by the National Monetary Council (CMN).

Improvement in the “positive register”

Meirelles also announced the improvement of the positive credit rating, which allows the creditor to analyze the person’s history. Membership becomes automatic, and exclusion has to be requested. The goal is to reduce credit risk and make room for lower interest rates for good payers.

Credit measures

Meirelles says another measure is to allow price differentiation according to the mode of payment. Such a change allows retailers to charge different prices depending on the payment mode used, ie different prices if the customer pays cash or credit card, which is currently prohibited by law. He recalled that it is common for stores to give discounts for purchases made in cash, but not the same on credit cards.

Reduction of card interest

Another measure presented by Meirelles is the reduction of interest rates on the credit card charged to the consumer and the term of payment to the merchant. The minister says the regulation should be submitted within 10 days.

Bank spread

According to the finance minister, the government is also proposing the creation of the electronic duplicate with the objective of reducing the so-called “spread” of the banks (difference between the rate of funding, close to the basic rate of the economy, at 13.75%/ year today, and the rate charged to bank customers).

“We want to create a central registry of duplicates, credit card receivables and allow the granting of credit with a lower guarantee, which increases the security for creditors and the supply of credit for small and medium-sized enterprises, with lower interest rates. “, he said.

Reduction of bureaucracy

On the issue of de-bureaucratization, Meirelles says that they will simplify the payment of labor, social security and tax obligations through a system called eSocial. The objective is to reduce the time spent by companies to fill declarations, forms and books and the redundancy of information provided to the tax authorities. The deadline for implementation in all companies would be July 2018.

Refund of taxes

Another proposal is to simplify the procedures for restitution and compensation of the taxes administered by Receita (Brazilian IRS), including the compensation between the social security contribution and other taxes.

Business Start-up

Meirelles says another measure will reduce the time to open ventures. A national network for simplifying the registration and legalization of companies and businesses will be implemented.

Competitiveness

The government also announced measures to speed up purchases and sales in foreign trade. According to Minister Meirelles, a single web-accessible portal will be created to forward all documents and data required for business transactions with other countries.

“The idea is to cut import and export procedures by 40 percent”, he said. The implementation period for exports is until March 2017 and for purchases from abroad until the end of next year.

BNDES

Following this, the Minister of Planning, Dyogo Henrique de Oliveira, spoke about other measures. The first deals with the increase from R$ 90 million to R$ 300 million the limit to access the BNDES credit for micro, small and medium enterprises.

Companies with up to R$ 300 million in revenues can also renegotiate debts of operations of up to R$ 20 million with the BNDES. Therefore, companies can seek cheaper interest rates, based on the Long-Term Interest Rate (currently at 7.5% per year).

According to him, the total volume of refinancing is estimated at R$ 100 billion, which will “increase the liquidity of companies”.  “Today, companies are suffering from a great deal of liquidity,” said the Planning Minister.

For large companies, with revenues above R$ 300 million per year, operations included in the Investment Support Program (PSI) may be refinanced. “These refinanced amounts will be with BNDES’ own resources, but with funds with TJLP (Long-Term Interest Rate) funding, with a lower cost”, he said.

FGTS

Another measure announced is the distribution of half of the profits in the FGTS to the workers. “That is to say, when there are profits, part of them will continue to be deposited and the other half will be made available to the worker to pay debts or make a different use”, he said.

Still on the FGTS, he announced the gradual reduction of the additional fine of 10% – which is paid by employers at the time of dismissal of employees, on top of the 40% that goes to employees. According to him, the idea is to reduce that 10% at the rate of one percentage point a year to relieve the entrepreneurs.

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.

Foreign investment in Brazil grows in September, covers external gap

Brazil’s current account deficit grew wider than expected in September but was easily covered by foreign investments, central bank data showed on Friday. 

Brazil posted a current account deficit of $3.076 billion in September, larger than a gap of $2.487 billion in August and the $2.3 billion deficit forecast by economists for the month, central bank data showed on Friday. 

Brazil attracted $6.037 billion in foreign direct investments last month, up from $5.246 billion in August, the central bank said. 

Despite the monthly increase, the current account deficit declined as a percentage of Brazil’s gross domestic product in the 12 months through September. It was equivalent to 4.18 percent of GDP, down from 4.34 percent in the previous month. 

A weaker Brazilian real is helping exporters and curbing imports, boosting the country’s trade balance after the country recorded its first deficit in 14 years in 2014. 

Brazil’s currency dropped more than 30 percent this year to a record low of more than 4 per dollar as investors fret over a steep rise of the country’s debt. 

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.”

JBS S.A. upgraded by Fitch Rating to BB+

JBS S.A. (BM&FBOVESPA: JBSS3, OTCQX: JBSAY, “JBS” or “Company”) communicates to its shareholders and to the Market in general that Fitch Ratings (“Fitch”), a rating agency, upgraded JBS S.A. from BB to BB+, with stable outlook.

According to the Fitch report, “the upgrade reflects JBS S.A.’s strong products and geographical diversification, as well as the successful integration of several acquired businesses over the past few years. It also factors in the strengthening of its business profile due to the recent acquisitions in the U.S., Europe and Australia. (…) Further, Fitch expects the company to report strong performance in all of its divisions in 2015 and 2016.”

The report also emphasized that “JBS S.A.’s ratings are supported by its strong business profile as the world’s largest beef and leather producer and its overall product diversification into poultry, beef, pork and to prepared foods.”

This upgrade underlines the Company’s commitment to operational excellence, free cash flow generation, financial discipline and value creation to its shareholders.

Fitch plays down 2-notch downgrade for Brazil

A director at Fitch Ratings on Monday played down the possibility of Brazil losing its investment-grade status during its next rating revision, saying the ratings agency “does not usually” give two-notch downgrades, barring exceptional cases.

However, Rafael Guedes, Fitch’s managing director for Brazil, said the possibility of an imminent one-notch downgrade is higher than 50 percent. He also noted that in 2002 the agency downgraded Brazil twice in the same year.

Fitch rates Brazil at BBB, two notches above junk, with a negative outlook. Competing ratings firms have already downgraded Brazil this year – Standard & Poor’s to BB-plus, in junk territory; and Moody’s Investors Service to Baa3, its lowest investment-grade rating.

Investors and even the Brazilian government expect Fitch to catch up with its peers, but the main question has been whether or not it will keep the country’s coveted investment grade.

A second downgrade to junk status is expected to have an even greater market impact than the first, as many investors are required to hold securities with investment-grade ratings from at least two ratings agencies.

Fitch representatives met with Brazilian policymakers last week in Brasilia and a decision on the country’s rating could come at any moment. Fitch has kept a negative outlook on Brazil’s ratings since April.

Guedes said Fitch’s decision will take into account the likelihood of President Dilma Rousseff getting Congress to pass the austerity measures needed to plug next year’s budget gap.

“The measures are not difficult to approve, but the government has no support in Congress,” he said in an event in Sao Paulo.

Guedes said that Brazil’s debt dynamics will not stabilize even if the government delivers a primary budget surplus of 0.7 percent of gross domestic product and the economy grows 1 percent next year. The Brazilian economy is expected to contract 1 percent in 2016.

Brazil downgrade leaves little choice but austerity for Rousseff

Brazil’s government scrambled yesterday to reassure investors it will impose austerity measures to put public finances in order after its credit rating was downgraded to junk status.

President Dilma Rousseff called an emergency cabinet meeting to brainstorm on policies to bridge a fiscal shortfall and how to win their approval by a Congress that has been reluctant to sign off on unpopular belt-tightening measures.

“The plan is to come up with something in the next couple of weeks that we can work on with Congress,” Finance Minister Joaquim Levy told journalists.

The Standard & Poor’s rating agency on Wednesday stripped Brazil of its hard-won investment grade rating, downgrading it to “junk” sooner than the government and investors had expected.

The downgrade appeared to strengthen Levy’s position. He has been the government’s face of austerity but his push for deeper spending cuts to improve Brazil’s finances and avoid a downgrade faced resistance inside the cabinet and Congress.

Read more: Unlike S&P, Fitch still sees elements supporting Brazil’s investment grade

Brazil downgraded by S&P – loses investment grade

Standard & Poor’s stripped Brazil of its investment-grade credit rating on Wednesday, making it even harder for President Dilma Rousseff to regain market trust and pull Latin America’s largest economy out of recession.

The faster-than-anticipated downgrade, which will likely hit Brazilian financial markets on Thursday, is a major setback for Rousseff as she tries to kick-start the economy and shore up public finances.

S&P cut Brazil’s rating to BB-plus, which denotes substantial credit risk, from BBB-minus. The outlook on the new rating remains negative, which means additional downgrades are possible in the near term.

The stripping of investment grade status, which Brazil won in 2008, represents the loss of a key imprimatur that solidified Brazil’s emergence as an economic power during a decade-long commodities boom that reverted in recent years.

The downgrade is expected to increase borrowing costs for the government and, worse, Brazilian companies. It will also cause Brazilian assets to lose valuable funding because many institutional investors are not allowed to buy or hold onto investments that are not rated investment grade.

S&P said its decision was based on the mounting political problems that have muddled economic policy.

These problems, S&P said, have been weighing on the government’s “ability and willingness” to submit a 2016 budget consistent with the significant policy fixes Rousseff promised after she won re-election last year.

Even though some measures are being taken by pro-marked ministry Levy, he still lacks the political support to make all the needed changes.

When Brazil first got the coveted investment-grade stamp from S&P, after decades of financial volatility, it was considered a star among developing nations.

Leveraging soaring export and tax revenue at the time, the ruling Workers’ Party broadened generous social welfare programs and encouraged lending by public banks, fueling a prolonged consumer boom.

Combined, the measures lifted 40 million people out of poverty. Once Rousseff took office, however, the economy began to slow down sharply and last quarter it officially entered a recession. (Reporting by Walter Brandimarte; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Kieran Murray)

What is yet to be seen is how much of the downgrade was already priced into the exchange rate and asset prices. Both the Brazilian reais and stock markets are down pretty significantly in the last 12 months so a lot of analysts believe it may be a case of “sell the rumor, buy the fact” but time will tell if this is really the case.

Moody’s reduce Brazilian sovereign rating but stable outlook reduces chance of losing investment grade

Moody’s rating agency announced on Tuesday the downgrade of Brazil’s sovereign risk rating from ‘Baa2’ to ‘Baa3’, the lowest in the investment grade scale. Moody’s also changed the outlook from “negative” to “stable”. The market was expecting the reduction in the Brazilian rating, but there was a concern that the agency would maintain a negative outlook, which would increase the risk of the country losing its investment grade. In a report, Moody’s assessed that weaker economic performance than expected, the upward trend of government spending and the lack of political consensus on fiscal reforms will prevent the authorities to achieve high primary surpluses enough to contain and reverse the trend of debt increase this and next year.

Read More on Brazilian Macroeconomics