Facebook Blogging

Edward Hugh has a lively and enjoyable Facebook community where he publishes frequent breaking news economics links and short updates. If you would like to receive these updates on a regular basis and join the debate please invite Edward as a friend by clicking the Facebook link at the top of the right sidebar.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Brazil Central Bank Raises Interest Rates

As indicated on this blog yesterday Brazil’s central bank have increased interest rates - although they surprised markets with a 0.5 percentage point increase, double the amount most economists expected. The rise brought to an end more than two years of rate cuts amid mounting concerns that consumer price inflation will exceed the government’s target this year.

The bank’s monetary policy committee (Copom) had held its target overnight rate, known as the Selic, at 11.25 per cent since the autumn of last year, after two years of cuts from a peak of 19.75 per cent. The bank in October held the benchmark rate at 11.25 percent, ending the longest monetary easing cycle since Brazil adopted inflation targets in 1999.

The real closed at R$1.66 to the dollar on Wednesday, its strongest level in nine years, on the back of the expected rate increase.

The Copom said it had opted for a 0.5 point increase as it wished to act immediately by introducing significant part of the monetary tightening that would be necessary to reduce the risk of rising inflation and reduce the size of the total increase to be implemented in the Selic rate.

Latin America's biggest economy grew 6.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007, more than twice the pace of the past decade. Bank lending, which has almost doubled in the past three years and is fueling purchases of cars and other big-ticket items, is powering economic growth and sparking inflation. Brazil's economy expanded an average of 3.8 percent from 2003 to 2007, the second slowest in South America. Argentina led the region with 8.8 percent, followed by Venezuela with 7.9 percent and Uruguay with 6.9 percent, according to International Monetary Fund data.

A surge in food prices and rising consumer demand have pushed annual inflation in Brazil from an eight-year low of 3 percent in March 2007 to a two-year high of 4.73 percent in March, above policy makers' year-end target for a third month. Brazil has the second slowest inflation in the region, after Mexico, according to Bloomberg data. In Chile, inflation has jumped to 8.5 percent in March from 2.6 percent in the year- ago month.

Over the past two years consumer demand has taken over from the export sector as the main driver of growth in Brazil. Falling unemployment, rising salaries and cheaper credit have driven a consumption boom, especially of credit-sensitive items such as cars and household electrical goods. About 2.4m vehicles were sold in Brazil last year – an increase of nearly 28 per cent over 2006. Strong demand continues across the economy this year. Retail sales in February were up by 12 per cent, year on year.

Lending by banks has climbed at least 20 percent in each of the past three years. Car sales jumped 30.5 percent in February from the year ago month, while home appliance and furniture sales climbed 17.8 percent, according to figures from the national statistics agency.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Brazil Retail Sales February 2008

Brazil's retail sales in February rose at the fastest pace since June 2004, raising expectations that the central bank will raise interest rates tomorrow. Retail, supermarket and grocery store sales, as measured by the volume index, jumped 12.2 percent in February from February 2007, the national statistic agency said this morning. The pace of economic expansion does seem to be slowing, however, since seasonally adjusted sales fell 1.5 percent on a month by month basis in February from January. Sales in the quarter which ended in February were up 0.3 percent compared with a 1.4 percent jump in the previous quarter.

Policy makers, led by central bank President Henrique Meirelles, are now widely expected to increase the benchmark interest rate tomorrow for the first time in three years. The consensus seems to be an expectation for the bank to increase the rate to 11.50 percent from the current record low 11.25 percent.

Brazil's annual inflation has steadily accelerated since November. Consumer prices in the 12 months through March rose 4.73 percent, the highest since March 2006, and greater than the central bank's target of 4.5 percent, plus or minus 2 percentage points.

What is Latin America's biggest economy grew 6.2 percent in the last quarter of 2007, more than twice the pace of the last decade. Commodity exports and bank lending, which has almost doubled in the past three years and is fueling purchases of cars and other big-ticket items, is powering economic growth.

Yields on interest-rate futures rose after the report was released. The yield on the overnight contract for May delivery increased 2 basis points, or 0.02 percentage point, to 11.43 percent.

The yield on Brazil's zero-coupon bonds due in January 2010 rose 4 basis points to 13.37 percent, according to Banco Bradesco SA.

Brazil's real gained on the news and was up 0.2 percent to 1.6832 per dollar at 4:48 p.m. New York time, from 1.687 yesterday. It had risen by as much as 0.6 percent earlier in the day. Brazil's currency has appreciated by 20.2 percent over the past 12 months, the second-best performance (after the Swiss franc) among the 16 most traded currencies.

Brazil's Bovespa index also rose for the first time in three days, gaining 464.94, or 0.8 percent, to 62,618.39. 37 stocks rose and 26 fell.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Brazil Inflation March 2008

Brazil's annual inflation rate, as measured by the government's IPCA index, climbed to 4.73 percent in March, the highest rate in two years and above the central bank's 4.5 percent annual target. Consumer prices rose 0.48 percent in the month, increasing speculation the central bank will raise interest rates next week for the first time in three years.

Yields on Brazil's overnight interest-rate futures contract for January delivery jumped 10 basis points to 12.46 percent. That's more than 1 percentage point above the central bank's benchmark overnight rate of 11.25 percent.

Central bankers considered raising the benchmark rate last month to slow demand and curb inflation, minutes of the march 4-5 meeting showed. Policy makers boosted their 2008 inflation forecast on March 27 to 4.6 percent, above their annual target rate.

Brazil's real strengthened for a seventh day, gaining 0.3 percent to 1.6885 per dollar. It has advanced 19.9 percent in the past 12 months, the third-biggest gain among the 16 most-traded currencies against the dollar.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Brazil Industrial Output February 2008

Brazil's industrial output climbed the most in four months in February, increasing expectations policy makers may raise interest rates to rein in the economy's expansion as inflation remains above the central bank target. Output climbed 9.7 percent in February from February 2007, the government said today. It was the 20th straight gain in year-on year industrial production. The annual rate of increase for 2007 was 6 percent, twice the pace of 2006, this was the fastest rate since 2004, when output grew by 8.3 percent.

Cheaper credit and record low unemployment rates have bolstered domestic demand and industrial production. The February gain was more than the revised 8.7 percent increase in January. Driving overall production up in February was the output of capital goods, which rose 25 percent from the year ago month, the agency said. Production of durable goods, such as cars, jumped 20.7 percent.

Brazil's trade surplus also widened to $1.01 billion in March from $882 million the previous month, the Trade Ministry said in a separate announcement. However it is far from clear how this position will evolve moving forward, and Brazil's trade surplus is expected to narrow to $27 billion this year from $40 billion in 2007, according to the most recent central bank forecast. The smaller surplus may lead Brazil to have a current account deficit in the region of $12 billion this year compared with a surplus $1.46 billion surplus in 2007, the bank said.

Coffee exports from Brazil, the world's biggest producer, also weakened last month, falling 5.4 percent in March from February, according to Brazil's Coffee Exporters Council. Brazil shipped 1.72 million bags of coffee beans last month, compared with 1.82 million bags a month earlier.

On the other hand Brazilian inflation accelerated in annual terms in February - although it slowed slightly in monthly terms when compared with January. Consumer prices, as measured by the benchmark IPCA index, rose 0.49 percent in February, compared with a 0.54 percent increase in January, the national statistics agency said last month. The annual inflation rate in February remained above the central bank's 4.5 percent target for a second straight month. Inflation quickened to 4.61 percent in the 12 months through February from 4.56 percent in the previous period.

The central bank said in the minutes of its March 4-5 meeting it considered raising the benchmark interest rate to hold demand, as inflation remained above the 4.5 percent annual consumer prices target. Policy makers, led by central bank President Henrique Meirelles, target annual inflation of 4.5 percent, plus or minus 2 percentage points to accommodate unexpected price shocks.

At the bank's March 4-5 meeting, the board considered raising rates for the first time since October, when they snapped the longest monetary easing cycle since the adoption of inflation targets in 1999. The board voted unanimously to keep the rate unchanged at 11.25 percent for the fourth straight meeting. On March 27, policy makers in their quarterly report increased their forecast for 2008 inflation to 4.6 percent from a previous 4.3 percent.