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Latin America Chart Book

Latin America Chart Book

Food inflation a growing concern

Inflation continues to march higher in Latin America, most recently driven by surging food prices owing to poor domestic weather conditions and rising global agricultural prices. This has led to unrest in Peru, and there is growing political pressure to safeguard consumers through lower taxes, higher subsidies and/or price controls on foodstuffs elsewhere in the region (e.g. Mexico and Chile). Even so, we expect that food (and headline) inflation will remain elevated in the coming months. This feeds into our view that Latin American central banks will raise policy rates further than most analysts expect in this cycle.

27 April 2022

Latin America Chart Book

Commodities boost Lat Am markets, economies less so

High commodity prices caused by the war in Ukraine have driven a rally in Latin American currencies and equities this month, and are causing exports to surge. Weekly trade figures from Brazil and Chile show that exports were up by 25-40% y/y in early March (in dollar terms). But domestic conditions remain challenging. Timely surveys from Brazil show that confidence fell this month, which seems linked to high and rising inflation. Meanwhile, financial conditions have tightened a little further across most of the region which is likely to weigh on credit growth. In short, the region still faces a slow and bumpy recovery.

31 March 2022

Latin America Chart Book

Fresh headwinds appear

The easing of Omicron waves, and loosening of restrictions, across Latin America will have given a lift to recoveries in recent weeks, but the fallout from the Russia-Ukraine crisis presents a fresh headwind to the region. While the recent surge in global commodity prices will benefit some Latin American countries, not all will see an improvement in their terms of trade. And higher prices will add to strong inflationary pressures, squeezing real incomes and consumer spending. Central banks will maintain their hawkish stance, and additional rate hikes will be a further drag on activity. The upshot is that the regional recovery will remain sluggish in the coming months.

24 February 2022
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Latin America Chart Book

Some good news on the political front

Political risk will be a major theme once again in Latin America this year, although recent developments have given cause for cautious optimism. Chilean President-elect Boric’s appointment of Mario Marcel, the current Central Bank Governor, as the next Finance Minister signals that his government may pursue prudent fiscal policies. And in Brazil, former left-wing president Lula (the front-runner in the presidential race) may be moderating his stance, having mooted to have asked Geraldo Alckmin, previously Lula’s centre-right rival, to be his running mate. However, there are still lingering risks in the region. Argentina’s government continues to play hardball with the IMF as the clock ticks down to reach a new deal. The make-up of Chile’s new constitution remains uncertain. And fiscal discipline could still waver around elections in Brazil and Colombia. These risks, and the implications for public debt trajectories, will probably put renewed pressure on currencies across Latin America.

Latin America Chart Book

Omicron may hinder already weakening recoveries

Recoveries across Latin America have lost momentum in Q4 even though, unlike in other regions such as Europe, new COVID-19 cases generally remain low and containment measures are still light-touch at this stage. The situation could get worse if the Omicron variant takes hold. One reassuring sign is that vaccine coverage continues to improve across much of the region, particularly in Chile and Uruguay which have world-leading booster programmes. But the rollout of third doses has barely got off the ground in the likes of Mexico, Colombia and Peru, suggesting these economies are most vulnerable to a renewed flare-up in virus cases and fresh lockdowns.

Latin America Chart Book

Political storm clouds lifting for investors…for now

Political developments in Latin America have generally turned in investors’ favour this month. Right-wing José Antonio Kast beat his left-wing rival, Gabriel Boric, in the first round of Chile’s presidential election which buoyed local markets. Elsewhere, the Peronists’ heavy defeat in Argentina’s legislative elections points to more market-friendly policymaking there. However, political risks still linger across the region. The fractured nature of Chilean politics and uncertainty over the new constitution may weigh on investor sentiment, while the Argentine government has a long way to go to win over markets. Meanwhile, fears over populist shifts will persist in Brazil and Colombia ahead of elections next year. Taken together with our view that growth will slow and commodity prices will fall (further), we remain downbeat on the outlook for Latin American financial markets.

Latin America Chart Book

Fiscal risks in the spotlight

The growing likelihood that Brazil’s government will circumvent its spending cap adds to broader signs that austerity is becoming politically difficult to implement across the region. For instance, Ecuadorian President Lasso recently U-turned on a plan to reduce fuel subsidies after facing the threat of protests. That echoes the decision by Colombia’s government to dilute tax hikes after mass demonstrations there earlier this year. With a busy electoral calendar approaching (e.g. in Chile, Colombia and Brazil), it seems unlikely that policymakers will push through the (harsh) austerity needed to reduce public debt risks. This feeds into our view that financial markets will come under further pressure across much of Latin America.

Latin America Chart Book

External headwinds growing

Falling new virus cases and the lifting of restrictions have boosted economies across the region in Q3, but the deteriorating external backdrop will put a lid on growth from here. Even with an orderly resolution to the Evergrande saga, a slowdown in China’s property sector will weigh on Latin American commodity producers, particularly Chile and Peru, over the coming quarters. Meanwhile, weakening US growth is a headwind to exporters, particularly in Mexico. As a result, regardless of developments on the virus and vaccine front, we expect that the regional recovery will slow over the coming quarters.

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