Brazilians to elect a new president in an atypically sour mood

October 24, 2014

Paulo Sotero – The Brazil Institute, 10/24/2014

With their country’s economy at a standstill, Brazilians go back to the polls this Sunday in an atypically sour mood to decide whether to extend the mandate of President Dilma Rousseff for four more years or replace her with Senator Aécio Neves, a popular former governor of Minas Gerais, Brazil’s second richest state after São Paulo. Opinion polls released this week showed Rousseff gaining on Neves for the first time, who pulled a stunning turnaround to end in second place in the October 5th first round of vote, way ahead of once favorite candidate, environmentalist Marina Silva. Failures in first round opinion polls were made. However, the unusual volatility of the race even made analysts that seemed convinced of Rousseff’s reelection hedge their bets by avoiding making definitive predictions. One pollster who worked for campaigns of gubernatorial candidates of the president’s coalition told former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva at a rally held in the Southern capital of Porto Alegre on Wednesday that his analyses indicated Aécio Neves could win the race.

Three weeks of second round campaigning that ended Friday, October 24th, with a nationally televised debate between the two contenders did little to lighten the poisonous political atmosphere created in the race’s initial 40-days of highly negative electoral tactics used by all major candidates, but especially by Rousseff’s camp. Read the rest of this entry »


In Brazil Election, a Stark Choice on Economic Direction

October 24, 2014

James B. Stewart – The New York Times, 10/24/2014

Sunday’s presidential election in Brazil may be too close to call, but investors have already voted with their reais and dollars — and it’s Aécio Neves in a landslide.

Rarely, if ever, has such a pro-growth, market-friendly candidate emerged as a serious presidential contender in a developing country, let alone one as large and influential as Brazil, which has the world’s seventh-largest economy as measured by gross domestic product. With every twist in the polls, the Brazilian stock market surges (if Mr. Neves is ahead) or plunges (if not) while largely ignoring fundamentals like commodity prices, the faltering Brazilian economy or global crises.

Perhaps nothing has more endeared Mr. Neves to investors than his announcement on Oct. 5, right after qualifying for this weekend’s presidential runoff, that he would name Arminio Fraga his finance minister. Mr. Fraga is an unabashed champion of market capitalism and pro-growth government policies. He has a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton and drew international praise as the head of Brazil’s central bank from 1999 to 2002, steering the Brazilian economy through a difficult period that coincided with the implosion of the dot-com bubble and a recession in the United States. He was a managing director at George Soros’s fund in New York, and after leaving Brazil’s central bank, he helped start the hedge fund Gávea Investimentos. A unit of JPMorgan Chase acquired a controlling stake in 2010.

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Brazil $101 Billion Swaps Position Looms Before Election

October 24, 2014

Cristiane Lucchesi, Ye Xie, Josue Leonel – Bloomberg, 10/24/2014

Fourteen months after Brazil began selling billions of dollars-worth of derivative contracts to shore up its currency, the strategy is proving ineffective and raising concern in financial markets.

The real fell to a six-year low yesterday and is the world’s most volatile currency. Some analysts say the swaps, which are equivalent to selling dollars in the futures market and now amount to 27 percent of foreign reserves, are approaching critical levels. The opposition’s presidential candidate has indicated he’d discontinue their use.

“The swaps program has reached its limit and it needs urgent review since it is losing efficiency and credibility,” said Tony Volpon, the managing director and head of emerging markets research at Nomura Holdings Inc., Japan’s largest brokerage.

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How to Fix Brazil’s Broken Economy

October 24, 2014

Joshua Kempf and Mark Kennedy – Foreign Policy, 10/23/2014

The last two decades made obvious a life’s-not-fair fact: Big countries can get away with bad economic policy. Size matters to investors, global corporations, and entrepreneurs because a winning payout is large and can justify the costs of bureaucracy, compliance, and corruption.

China, India, and Brazil attract big investor dollars not because they are business paradises — check out their World Bank’s “Doing Business” rankings. To understand how business leaders think, let’s imagine you built a company with 85 percent market share in more business friendly Estonia. Congrats, they’ll say, those size revenues are in a multinational’s second footnote once removed.

Which brings us to Brazil. Despite its numerical advantages, Brazil has stagnated, and is expected to have just 0.4 percent economic growth this year. What’s wrong? Many analysts have pointed out the obvious: Brazil needs to improve its education, healthcare, and infrastructure. Few economists would disagree, but these are deeply rooted problems with decades-long solutions. Brazilians go to the polls on Sunday to select a president. What reforms can be done during one term to unleash Brazil’s charmed bequest, its size? Here’s the policies we think should be on the agenda.

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Real Drops to Lowest Since 2008 as Rousseff Leads in Voter Polls

October 24, 2014

Paula Sambo and Filipe Pacheco – Bloomberg, 10/23/2014

Brazil’s real fell to the lowest since December 2008 after polls showed President Dilma Rousseff led candidate Aecio Neves three days before the election runoff.

The real declined 0.5 percent to 2.50 per dollar at the close of trade in Sao Paulo after earlier today falling 1.2 percent. The Ibovespa tumbled 3.2 percent, leading losses among major stock benchmarks and erasing this year’s gain.

“Investors are more and more pricing in a victory for Rousseff,” Andre Perfeito, the chief economist at Gradual Investimentos in Sao Paulo, said by telephone. “Many traders are still cautious, but these polls show she is ahead, and people are considering that in trading the currency.”

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The start-up firm which wants to put Brazil to sleep

October 23, 2014

Luana Ferreira – BBC News, 10/22/2014

Brazilian entrepreneur Marcelo von Ancken remembers the dilemma which inspired his new business – he had nowhere to take his afternoon nap. The 51-year-old has a daily ritual at his office in downtown Sao Paulo – after eating lunch he likes to lean back and take a 30-minute siesta.

Mr von Ancken says he finds that having the little sleep gives him a renewed energy for the remainder of the day. Yet one lunchtime back in 2010 he was across town waiting for an afternoon meeting.

Unable to get back to his office, he instead tried, and failed, to take a power nap in his car. An attempt to sleep on a shopping centre bench was equally unsuccessful. The frustration was the spark of inspiration for a new company – a drop-in centre where members of the public can go for a quick sleep.

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The cashmere revolution

October 23, 2014

J.P. – The Economist, 10/23/2014

Business barons and financiers are not known for taking to the streets. Yet on October 22nd thousands turned out in the centre of São Paulo in support of Aécio Neves, the centre-right challenger to President Dilma Rousseff, of the left-wing Workers’ Party (PT), in a tight run-off election on October 26th. Together with spouses and children they sauntered down São Paulo’s Avenida Faria Lima, a thoroughfare conveniently located close to many of their offices.

It was a sight to behold—perhaps unprecedented in election history, and not just in Brazil. Besuited types with crisp, initialed shirts toting “Aécio” flags. Snazzily clad socialites, wrapped in pashminas to keep out the unseasonable chill, chanting anti-PT slogans. Everyone snapping selfies with pricey iPhones (most Brazilian rallies are cheaper Samsung affairs). The only thing missing from this “cashmere revolution” was champagne flutes—and Mr Neves himself, campaigning in his home state of Minas Gerais.

“Most of Brazilian GDP is here,” observed one private-equity boss with four Aécio stickers on his checked shirt, shortly after bumping into a pal from a big American technology firm. In that sense, the event played right into PT propaganda, which relentlessly paints Mr Neves as a pawn of the rich elite. On October 21st Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Ms Rousseff’s popular predecessor and political patron renowned for his earthiness, went so far as to compare Mr Neves’s Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB) to the Nazis for its apparent intolerance of the less advantaged. (Mr Neves had previously compared Ms Rousseff’s formidable marketers to Joseph Goebbels.)

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