“This Time May Be Different”: Desperate Central Banks Set To Dust Off Asia Crisis Playbook, Goldman Warns
Early last month, Bloomberg observed that plunging currencies were “handcuffing bankers from Chile to Colombia.” The problem was described as follows:
Central bankers in commodity-dependent Andes economies aren’t even considering interest-rate cuts to revive growth, even as prices for oil, copper and other raw materials collapse.
That’s because the deepening price slump is also dragging down currencies in Colombia and Chile — a swoon that’s fanning inflation and tying policy makers’ hands.
That was six days before China’s decision to devalue the yuan.
Needless to say, Beijing’s entry into the global currency wars did nothing to help the situation and indeed, since the yuan devaluation, things have gotten materially worse. The real, for instance, has plunged 10.5%, the Colombian peso is down 6.6%, the Mexican peso is off 4.4%, and the Chilean peso is down a harrowing 8% (thanks copper). And again, that’s just since China’s devaluation.
Meanwhile, plunging commodity prices, falling Chinese demand, and depressed global trade aren’t helping LatAm economies. Just ask Brazil, where the sellside GDP forecast cuts are coming in fast (Morgan Stanley being the latest example) now that virtually every data point one cares to observe shows an economy that’s sliding into depression.
Of course a plunging currency, FX pass through inflation, and a soft outlook for growth is a pretty terrible place to be in if you’re a central bank, but that’s exactly where things stand for the “LA-5” (believe it or not, that’s not a reference to the Lakers, it’s short for Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru), who very shortly will be forced to decide whether the risks associated with further FX weakness outweigh those of hiking rates into a poor economic environment.
For Goldman, the outlook is clear: LatAm central banks will, in “stark” contrast to counter-cyclical measures adopted during the crisis, hike in a desperate attempt to shore up their currencies and control inflation.
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