If you think Brazil’s first quarter was bad, wait for the second

David Biller – Bloomberg Business, 05/27/2015

Brazil’s economy probably shrank in the first three months of 2015, and the second quarter may be worse as the nation enters its first recession in six years.

Gross domestic product contracted 0.6 percent in the first quarter, according to the median estimate of 36 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. When surveyed last month, analysts forecast that would be the year’s weakest quarter. Now they foresee the second quarter being even worse, according to a May 22-27 survey.

As steward of Brazil’s economic policy, Finance Minister Joaquim Levy has cut spending while raising taxes and the prices of regulated items to avert a sovereign downgrade. At the same time, the central bank is boosting borrowing costs to slow inflation. This two-pronged tightening has already taken a toll on industry and investment, and the slump will spill over into consumption and services in the second quarter, according to Roberto Padovani, chief economist at Banco Votorantim.

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If you think Brazil’s first quarter was bad, wait for the second

Soiled by oil scandal, Brazil’s model is primed for makeover

Juan Pablo Spinetto, Anna Edgerton, Sabrina Valle – Bloomberg Business, 05/27/2015

Oil was to be the elixir of Brazil’s dreams to build a formidable economy, promote industrial development and fund a more generous welfare state even as it attracted billions in private global investment.

Instead, crisis and disappointment in the oil sector are beckoning Brazil’s leadership to move — if grudgingly — toward more deregulated industries and to temper the government’s hand in using state-run companies to forge broader economic policy.

Which helps explain why, as her second term takes shape, some of President Dilma Rousseff’s ministers have jettisoned the statist language of her first four years in office and those of her popular predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Instead, they are floating some liberal notions more in keeping with the pre-Lula years.

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Soiled by oil scandal, Brazil’s model is primed for makeover

Brazil president says to maintain oil rules, national content

Reuters, 05/14/2015

May 14 Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said on Thursday that her government will maintain rules that mandate production-sharing contracts for the country’s most promising areas and high national content requirements for the oil industry.

“The local content policy is not something that can be set aside, it is central to my policy of reviving our country’s investment capacity,” Rousseff said at the christening of an oil tanker at the Atlântico Sul Shipyard near Recife, Brazil.

“We are going through a period of macroeconomic difficulty, but today things are different because we have these shipyards.”

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Brazil president says to maintain oil rules, national content

Brazil: Oily mess

Joe Leahy – The Financial Times, 05/14/2015

In Brazil’s hyper-consumerist society, people are accustomed to paying for everything in instalments, from fridges and televisions to silicon breast implants. But less commonly known is that even bribes to political parties can allegedly be paid parcelado, as the practice of paying in instalments is called.

That is what Augusto Ribeiro de Mendonça Neto, a former board member of oil and gas services company Toyo Setal, claimed in testimony in March. He alleges that he paid bribes to the ruling centre-left Workers’ party, or PT, between 2010 and 2013 in exchange for winning contracts with state-owned oil company, Petrobras.

The allegations form part of an investigation into a vast corruption scandal at Petrobras known as “car wash”. As part of the probe, Mr Mendonça told prosecutors that João Vaccari Neto, former PT treasurer, asked him to disguise the bribes as payments to a printing and advertising company named Editora Gráfica Atitude.

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Brazil: Oily mess

The Betrayal of Brazil

Michael Smith, Sabrina Valle, Blake Schmidt – BloombergBusiness, 05/08/2015

In mid-2013, Brazilian federal police investigator Erika Mialik Marena noticed something strange.

Alberto Youssef, suspected of running an illicit black-market bank for the rich, had paid 250,000 reais (about $125,000 at the time) for a Land Rover. The black Evoque SUV ended up as a gift for Paulo Roberto Costa, formerly a division manager at Brazil’s national oil company, Petrobras. “We were investigating a money-laundering case, and Petrobras wasn’t our target at all,” says Marena. “Paulo was just another client of his. So we started to ask, ‘Why is he getting an expensive car from a money launderer? Who is that guy?’”

Marena had spent the previous decade building cases against money launderers, and Youssef had been a perennial target. He’d been arrested at least nine times for using private jets, armored cars, clandestine pickups by bagmen, and a web of front companies to move illicit cash. But Youssef had been spared serious jail time by testifying repeatedly against other doleiros, Brazilian slang for specialists in laundering unreported cash.

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The Betrayal of Brazil

Brazil’s economic activity grows unexpectedly in February

Silvio Cascione – Reuters, 04/15/2015

Brazilian economic activity grew unexpectedly in February from the previous month, central bank data showed on Wednesday, but economists said the increase was too small to dispel forecasts for a recession this year in Latin America’s largest economy.

The Brazilian central bank’s IBC-Br economic activity index BRIBC=ECI, a gauge of farming, industry and services activity, rose a seasonally adjusted 0.36 percent from January, topping market expectations for a drop of 0.2 percent.

The index is seen as a leading indicator for gross domestic product data, which is released quarterly. Economists have forecast Brazil’s economy to shrink about 1 percent in 2015, which would be the country’s deepest recession in 25 years.

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Brazil’s economic activity grows unexpectedly in February

Another huge and open iron mine is carved out of Brazil’s rain forest

Dom Phillips – The Washington Post, 04/13/2015

The line of trucks and four-wheel-drive pickups threw up clouds of red dust as it snaked up the hill on the wide dirt road. From the top, Brazilian rain forest stretched out into the distance. Before it, a vast quadrangle was being carved out of the slope by an army of machines, a scar of red earth in the green hills.

S11D, as this project is unceremoniously known, is an open-cast iron ore mine being dug out of this corner of the Brazilian Amazon, in the state of Para. Brazil’s mining giant, Vale, says the mine was designed for minimum environmental impact and maximum profitability. It is to start operating next year and by 2018 will be producing nearly 100 million tons annually of some of the purest iron ore in the world — a lifeblood for Brazil’s pallid economy.

But environmentalists argue that S11D could destroy rare savannah ecosystems found in two lakes on top of rich iron ore deposits. Dozens of caves that potentially contained evidence of ancient Amazon habitations have been lost. This grandiose $17 billion project is emblematic of a very contemporary, Brazilian dilemma: Can the country develop its rich natural resources without causing irreparable damage to its environment and history?

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Another huge and open iron mine is carved out of Brazil’s rain forest