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.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Brazil Debt Raised To Investment Grade By Standar and Poor's

Brazil yesterday received an investment grade credit rating for the first time from Standard & Poor's, sending the benchmark stock market index to a record and yields on dollar bonds to an all-time low.

Brazil, whose economy grew last year at the fastest pace since 2004, should be able to maintain annual growth of as much as 4.5 percent, S&P said in a statement. The country's long-term foreign currency debt rating was raised to BBB-from BB+. Foreign direct investment, which reached a record of $34.6 billion last year, is likely to cover the country's current account deficit this year, the ratings company said.

Brazilian exports have tripled since President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took office in January 2003 on rising world demand for soybeans, iron-ore, beef and cars. Brazil, once the world's largest emerging-market debtor, became a net foreign creditor for the first time in January as international reserves swelled to a record $171.6 billion from $37.6 billion at the start of Lula's first term. Credit-rating increases usually result in lower borrowing costs for nations and companies.

The Bovespa climbed 6.3 percent to 67,868.46 in Sao Paulo trading, making the index this year's best performer among the world's 20 biggest stock markets. The real strengthened 2.6 percent to 1.6623 versus the U.S. dollar, the biggest one-day gain in the currency since Aug. 17, when the Federal Reserve unexpectedly cuts its discount rate.

The yield to the 2015 call date on Brazil's 11 percent bonds due in 2040 fell by 21 basis points to 5 percent in New York, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. The price rose 1.602 cents on the dollar to 136.301 cents, the highest since the country issued the securities in 2000.

Brazil's federal debt was 1.36 trillion reais ($813.8 billion) in March, the Treasury said April 24. Foreign debt was 106.3 billion reais. Brazil is rated Ba1, or one level below investment grade, by Moody's Investors Service. Fitch Ratings ranks the country at BB+.

Brazil's rating is now in line with those of Colombia and Romania and is four steps higher than its level in July 2002. In Latin America, Mexico and Chile, whose economies are smaller than Brazil's, have a higher rating.

Brazil's economy expanded 5.4 percent in 2007 and is expected to grow 4.6 percent in 2008, according to estimates of about 100 economists in a central bank survey.

The acceleration in growth prompted Brazil's central bank on April 16 to raise its benchmark lending rate for the first time in three years as inflation accelerated above their 4.5 percent target. Rising food costs and consumer demand pushed inflation to a two-year high of 4.73 percent in March from an eight-year low of 3 percent in the prior year's period. Economists now expect policy makers to raise their target rate to 13 percent by year- end, with annual inflation estimated to reach 4.79 percent this year, a central bank survey published April 28 showed.

High government spending and public debt remains Brazil's ``foremost credit weaknesses," S&P said. Net government debt reached 47 percent of the country's gross domestic product in 2007, ``higher than in similarly rated credits and above 20 percent for the BBB median,"


The FT had an interesting article on this topic today. Perhaps the central point was this one:

Brazil is still a long way from the top-notch triple A ratings of the developed economies, such as the US, Britain and Germany, but its rise out of junk or speculative grade is important as it allows some of the biggest pension and insurance funds to invest in the country. Many of these big institutions are not allowed to channel funds into countries rated below investment grade because of the dangers that these economies will default, losing their clients vast sums of money.

Also today Moody's announced their view on investment grade for Brazil. Moody's - which rates Brazil's foreign currency debt Ba1, one rank below investment grade - stated that Brazil must reduce debt and spending while lengthening the maturity of its government securities before it can earn an investment-grade credit rating. Standard & Poor's last week raised Brazil to investment grade, citing pragmatic fiscal policies and stronger economic growth.

``There are two elements that are important when you move a rating -- you need all the support behind the improvement of fundamentals, and those elements are there in Brazil,'' according to Mauro Leos, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody's in New York. ``You also need a serious reduction of liabilities.''

An increase in government spending as a percent of gross domestic product over the last five years, largely because of higher pension payments, is the principal challenge, according to Moody's.

``The upward trend in primary spending, which went from 15 percent of GDP in 2003 to 18 percent in 2007, reflects the evolution of pension payments.... Still, Brazil's debt ratios remain high relative to the Baa investment-grade peer group and, in some cases, when compared with the Ba non-investment-grade peer group......Standing at some 56 percent of GDP, Brazil's government debt ratio compares with a 34 percent debt-to-GDP ratio for the Baa investment-grade peer group.''

Moody's will evaluate improvements in Brazil's fiscal accounts through the third quarter this year and then decide if the country can receive a positive outlook.Should a positive outlook be awarded, Brazil would then be placed under review before it could claim an investment rating.

Pension payments, which account for more than 40 percent of primary government spending, have increased in absolute and relative terms because more than half of benefits paid are indexed to the minimum wage, Moody's said. The minimum pension has experienced over 10 percent real annual growth since 2003 when President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took office.

A commitment to primary surplus targets and declining interest rates have been helping contain the debt-load, and the ratio of gross debt to GDP declined to 55.6 percent in 2007 from 58.4 percent in 2003.

No comments: