Brazil’s reality show

April 21, 2015

Ilan Goldfajn – Financial Times, 4/21/2015

I have just returned from abroad. It felt like déjà vu from a distant past. Explaining Brazil has become complex again. “I read about corruption accusations, popular protests, deficits and crises; what is happening in Brazil?” I was asked by an important investor. The answer inevitably tends to be long and full of Buts and Ifs.

Nevertheless, I will make an effort to summarize it here in a straightforward way. Brazil did not invest enough during the favorable commodity cycle. Policymakers did not recognize the end of the cycle in time. When they did, they tried to go back to a past that no longer existed. Now, Brazil must adjust everything at once to avoid a worse crisis. But markets are dynamic: with the recent depreciation of the real, there are already investors looking for opportunities. That is the reason Brazilian assets rebounded lately.

All Latin American economies – from Argentina and Venezuela to Chile and Peru – are experiencing declining growth. This is a sign of a common factor: the end of the favourable global cycle of commodity boom and growth in China and abundant capital flows to emerging markets. Corruption accusations and investigations are surfacing in many Latam countries such as Brazil and Mexico, but also in Chile, which signals that even the tolerance to such deviations is cyclical.

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More austere, accommodating Rousseff paying off for Brazil

April 10, 2015

Brian Winter and Anthony Boadle – Reuters, 4/10/2015

The “new Dilma” is starting to produce results.

By embracing power-sharing deals and budget cuts that she shunned during her first term in office, President Dilma Rousseff has begun to ease the economic and political crisis plaguing Brazil, congressional leaders and economists say.

Rousseff’s decision this week to hand formal responsibility for negotiating with Congress to Vice President Michel Temer, a leader of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), was a milestone that should help ease tensions with the biggest party in her coalition and dissuade it from sabotaging her economic agenda as it did earlier this year, legislators said.

Brazil’s stock and currency markets rallied as investors hoped the more stable political climate, and new signs that Rousseff is shifting toward more market-friendly policies, will eventually help Latin America’s largest economy recover from what is expected to be a moderate recession this year.

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Exclusive: U.S. bets on Brazil, extends new invitation to Rousseff

March 24, 2015

Brian Winter – Reuters, 3/24/2015

The Obama administration has again invited Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff for a state visit to Washington, a diplomatic breakthrough that both sides hope will lead over time to greater trade between the two biggest economies in the Americas.

Rousseff had originally been scheduled to make a state visit, which involves a black-tie dinner at the White House and is considered the strongest expression of friendly ties between allies, in October 2013.

But the leftist leader canceled her trip after she was angered by revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spied on her personal communications. She said it was “incompatible” with a relationship among allies.

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The United States and Brazil: On Reaping What You Sow

March 6, 2015

Jan Knippers Black – NACLA, 3/6/2015

It was often said in Latin America in the early 1960s that when the United States sneezed, Latin America caught pneumonia. In fact, it was repeated year after year until the fall of 2008, when the United States caught pneumonia and Latin America sneezed.

Brazil, in particular, after a short spell of sneezing, rebounded to its pattern of robust economic growth, grounded in sophisticated research and development, diversified products and trading partners. Through years both of boom and, more recently, slump, redistributive domestic programs, like Bolsa Familia, and higher minimum wages have enabled Workers’ Party (PT) governments to narrow the country’s income gap. Meanwhile, the U.S. sinks deeply into debt to China and the domestic income gap continues to grow. The one percent are thriving; not so the 99.

The changing relationship between the United States and Brazil over the last couple of decades responds in large part to changes in the global power game and to how each of the countries has played the game. Currently undergirded by socially responsible civilian leadership and the legendary diplomatic skills of Itamaraty, the foreign ministry, Brazil can expect to be taken into account on issues of global import; moreover, its collaborative outreach has served to strengthen national self-confidence elsewhere in Latin America. Does that mean that the United States can be counted upon now to treat Brazil, and Latin America in general, with respect, like good neighbors rather than subservient and potentially subversive clients? Apparently not.

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The noise from Brazil? An economy on the brink

March 6, 2015

Alberto Nardelli – The Guardian, 3/6/2015

The more you look at Brazil’s fundamentals, the more shaky the country looks. And we are not talking about the defensive prowess of David Luiz here. It is the country’s economic backline that risks tumbling down like a set of dominoes.

When a Latin American economy is in trouble a good place to start is its inflation rate. Brazil’s is today running at 7.5%. While this is nowhere near the 2,000-3,000% of the early 1990s, when the price of everything went up several times a week, it is far higher than the central bank’s mid-point target of 4.5%.

On Wednesday, in an effort to bring inflation down, Brazil’s central bank raised interest rates to 12.75%, a six-year high.

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Exclusive: Brazil seeks to block return to free trade in autos with Mexico – sources

February 13, 2015

Ana Isabel Martinez and Alonso Soto – Reuters, 2/12/2015

Grappling with tumbling auto sales and weak economic growth, Brazil wants to derail a pact that would allow unlimited imports of cars from Mexico, sources familiar with the situation say, in a move that could stoke trade tensions between Latin America’s largest economies.

A treaty between the two nations and auto manufacturers, which sets quotas on how many light vehicles Mexico and Brazil can sell each other, expires in March. Auto trade between the two was then supposed to be fully liberalized.

Brazil this week invited a Mexican government delegation to a meeting in Brasilia between Feb. 20 and 25 for talks to revamp the treaty.

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Brazil’s Budget Disarray Shocks Bondholders Backing Levy

February 5, 2015

David Biller – Bloomberg Business, 2/3/2015

Bond investors have been fretting for months about Brazil’s deteriorating finances. Last week, they learned things are far worse than they’d imagined.

The government said Jan. 30 that it posted the nation’s biggest-ever budget deficit in 2014 after a shortfall in December that was twice as big as analysts had forecast.

The report laid bare the scale of the challenges facing Finance Minister Joaquim Levy, who is seeking to ward off a downgrade to junk and restore investor confidence in Latin America’s biggest economy. After rebounding to a five-year high as Levy boosted taxes and cut spending earlier this year, the nation’s local bonds have now dropped 1.3 percent since Jan. 30, 43 times the emerging-market average.

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