Brazil’s central bank meets today and almost certainly will announce another half point cut in interest rates, the eighth consecutive reduction since last August. But so far there is little sign that its rate-cutting spree – the longest and most aggressive in the developing world – is having much success in resuscitating the economy.
HSBC’s closely watched emerging markets index (EMI), released this week, shows Brazil as one of the weak links in the EM growth picture, with sharp declines in manufacturing and export orders in the second quarter.
The government is expected to soon revise down its 4.5 percent growth projection for 2012; the central bank has already done so. Industrial output is down, and automobile production has slumped 9 percent in the first half of 2012. Nor it seems are record low interest rates encouraging the middle classes to take on more debt — the number of Brazilians seeking new credit fell 7.4 percent in the first half of this year, the biggest fall on record, according to credit research firm Seresa Experian.
And investors aren’t too happy with Brazil either. Despite the steep rate cuts, Brazil’s stocks are among the worst performing in emerging markets this year. (See here for what I wrote on Brazilian stocks a few weeks back)
Grappling with the slowdown in China and other export markets, Brazil, understandably, is trying to stimulate domestic demand. But its problem (and indeed that of many others such as India) is that it is trying to repeat the strategy it pursued in 2009 when countries resorted to huge stimulus to kickstart growth after the Lehman Brothers disaster. It worked back then but may not be quite so successful again, says Karen Ward, senior global economist at HSBC who worked on the EMI report. Ward notes that China, in contrast to Brazil, has been measured in its monetary easing this year, even though its growth too is slowing.