Forex Blog: Currency Trading News & Analysis.

April 6th 2010

Brazilian Real Recovers on Rate Hike Hopes

One of the main themes (even if not always overt) of my posts recently has been the revival of the carry trade, if not the already extant revival than at least the imminent one. In this context, there is no better candidate than the Brazilian Real.

After a stellar 2009, the Brazilian Real opened 2010 in much the same way that most emerging market currencies did: down. In the month of January, alone, it fell almost 10% against the Dollar, as fears of a widespread sovereign debt crisis took hold in currency markets. Its modest recovery since then, is not so much due to a decreased likelihood of such a debt crisis, but rather to a shift in the markets’ perspective away from long-term fiscal problems and back towards short-term economic and monetary conditions.

real dollar
It is here where Brazil (and the Real) shines. As one analyst summarized, “The Brazilian economy has been transformed over the past few years. The boom-and-bust and hyperinflation of previous decades has been replaced by steady growth. The country was one of the last major economies into recession, but one of the first out.” 2009 Q4 GDP came in at 4.3% on a year-over-year basis, and is projected at 6% for 2010. Moreover, its economy is very well-balanced, and consumer debt levels are relatively low. Unlike in China, for example, infrastructure investment in Brazil still has plenty of room to grow, without crowding out private investment. This is important, given that the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics are right around the corner.

After rebounding from the lows of the 1999 currency crisis, meanwhile, the Brazilian stock market has had an incredible decade, returning an average of 20% annually. For the sake of comparison, consider that emerging markets have averaged 10%, and all stock markets have averaged only .2%. It doesn’t hurt that Brazil just discovered a huge (the fifth largest in the world) coastal oil reserve.

In fact, it might just be the latter that currency traders are most excited about: “Thus far this year, BRL is 68% correlated with crude oil prices…Last year the correlation was 53% and in 2008 the correlation was just shy of 32%.” This is the highest among any currency, even those that derive a much larger portion of GDP from oil exports, such as Canada and Norway. While there are almost certainly lurking variables in this correlation, a continued rise in the price of oil can’t hurt the Real.

Where does the carry trade fit into this? Look no further then Brazil’s benchmark interest rate of 8.5%. Impossibly, this represents a record low, despite the fact that this is nearly 8.5% higher than the current Federal Funds Rate. And the Brazilian rate is only set to rise. At the last meeting of the Bank of Brazil, 3 out of 8 Board members voted to hike the Selic rate by 50 basis points. The main opposition came from the Bank’s President, Henrique Meirelles, who steered a dovish course for political reasons.

Since then, inflation has continued to creep up and Mr. Meirelles has firmly renounced his political ambitions, and the stage is now set for a 75 basis point hike at the next meeting, to be held on April 28. Most analysts are projecting an “increase of between 200 and 300 basis points through mid-2011, [and] some investors are pricing about 450 basis points of hikes in the same period.”

It’s hard to predict if/when the Fed will follow suit, but most certainly won’t be to the same extent. As long as Brazilian interest rates can keep up with inflation, then, it looks like the Real will end 2010 in much the same fashion as 2009.

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One Review of “Brazilian Real Recovers on Rate Hike Hopes”

  1. Volatility, Carry, Risk: Things to Consider When Developing a Carry Trade Strategy. | Forex Blog Says:

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