Obama asks Congress for $1.8bn to battle Zika virus

Barney Jopson – Financial Times, 02/08/2016

The White House is asking Congress for $1.8bn to help combat the Zika virus in the US and overseas as alarm grows over the illness’s spread.

The Obama administration said on Monday that it would use the funds in part to prepare for the potential onslaught of the virus in the mainland US.

The White House said it was preparing to submit the request to Congress formally but it was unclear how Republican leaders would respond.

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Brazil’s real: how low can it go?

Joe Leahy, John Paul Rathbone – Financial Times, 02/08/2016

When Dilma Rousseff attended the 2016 opening session of Brazil’s congress this week, she appealed to lawmakers to approve tax increases to tackle a widening gap in the country’s public finances.

Most critically, the president called for the reintroduction of a tax on financial transactions, known as the CPMF, that was abandoned in 2007 after objections from business. Opposition congressmen booed her.

But with Brazil reporting a budget deficit last year that was the biggest among emerging economies except for Saudi Arabia at over 10 per cent, unpopular measures are needed to save the country from a deepening fiscal hole, analysts say

The Heat: Brazil at a Crossroads

Paulo Sotero, Lucrecia Franco,  Ligia Maura Costa, Bernardo Sork, Fabio Ostermann – CCTV, 01/28/2016

Political upheaval, economic downturn and corruption scandals: Brazil is at a crossroads.

So, what’s the way forward for a Latin American giant in crisis? 2015 was not Brazil’s easiest year. Several widespread protests across the country called for change. Confidence in president Dilma Rousseff reached a record low. A scandal at state-run oil conglomerate Petrobras exposed corruption. All while the economy stagnated and began a free fall. 2016 hasn’t started off much better either. For a Brazilian perspective, from Rio de Janeiro, The Heat was joined by CCTV America’s Lucrecia Franco. To discuss the current political and economic climate: Ligia Maura Costa is a professor of legal studies at Escola de Administração de Empresas de São Paulo. Bernardo Sorj is a professor of Sociology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. To discuss Brazil’s future and the youth movement: Fabio Ostermann is one of the founders and a former coordinator of Movimento Brasil Livre. Paulo Sotero is director of the Brazil Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

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Imports Fall 36% in January as Brazil Registers Trade Surplus

Isabel Versiani – Folha de S. Paulo, 02/02/2016

Brazil’s trade balance closed out January with a surplus of US$923 million, the first surplus for January since 2011 and the highest in nine years.

Exports totaled US$11.2 billion, with a 14% fall compared to January last year. However, imports fell by 36% in the same period, down to US$10.3 billion.

This is the lowest value since 2009, when the country was suffering from the effects of the global financial crisis, following the closure of the American bank Lehman Brothers.

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Brazil’s Congress reconvenes, mired in pessimism

Silvio Cascione -Reuters, 02/02/16

Brazilian lawmakers return from their annual recess today with an overwhelming list of work to do as the country sinks into a broadening political, economic and health crisis.

And yet expectations about their actual capacity to make 2016 a better year than 2015 could hardly be smaller.

While there is little consensus on the measures needed to fix Brazil’s budget, deputies and senators are set to spend much of their political energy this year arguing about if and how President Dilma Rousseff should be impeached – and a whole new program of economic reforms could be started from scratch.

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Brazil’s State Run Banks Getting Tapped Out

Kenneth Rapoza – Forbes, 01/31/2016

Brazil’s public banks are the only game in town. Not only do they have subsidized rates they can offer home owners and small business, but they are the only banks in Brazil willing to take on risk. Last year, 56% of credit circulating nationwide was from the public sector banks. That’s up from 34% six years ago. The problem is that these banks are getting stretched out and will not be able to offer as much credit this year.

“The situation for capital at state banks is very tight. They cannot do a lot of anti-cyclical moves at the moment,” an executive at one of the banks told Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper on Sunday. “Either the Central Bank injects capital or Brazil breaks with the Basil accords.”

Brazil is still a ways away from being a risky lender, however.The Basil agreement among world banks, pushed forward after the Great Recession in order to avoid a global banking meltdown, requires signatories to hold between 7% and 9.5% in cash in relation to its credit portfolio.

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Rousseff Poised to Win on Impeachment, Lose on Brazilian Economy

Arnaldo Galvao – Bloomberg Business, 02/01/2016

Embattled Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff may get a new lease on political life when legislators return to work Tuesday to discuss impeachment proceedings against her. Just don’t expect much help from them on the economy.

Following a six-week recess, much of the fervor surrounding the political crisis has died down, and with it the drive to oust Rousseff. Yet with consumers and businesses battered by a deepening recession, legislators have little appetite for the spending cuts and tax hikes administration officials say are needed to restore investor confidence. That’s especially true ahead of municipal elections in October, party leaders and political analysts said in interviews.

The mood could still sour against Rousseff and upset her chances to stay in office if discord increases within the ruling coalition, unemployment surges or the corruption probe that has rattled Congress expands further. But even the politician who stands to benefit the most from the president’s ouster, Vice President Michel Temer, says the mood in Congress has shifted away from ousting Rousseff, according to the G1 news site

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