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Olympics In Doubt As Brazil Sports Minister Quits, Rio Governor Says “This Is The Worst Situation I’ve Ever Seen”

Olympics In Doubt As Brazil Sports Minister Quits, Rio Governor Says “This Is The Worst Situation I’ve Ever Seen”

In less than five months, Brazil is expected to host the Summer Olympics.

If you follow LatAm politics, you know that that is an absolute joke. Last summer, the country descended into political turmoil and the economy sank into what might as well be a depression. Nine months later, inflation is running in the double digits, output is in freefall, and unemployment is soaring. On Wednesday, the government reported its widest primary budget deficit in history and less than 24 hours later, the central bank delivered a dire outlook for growth and inflation.

Meanwhile, VP Michel Temer’s PMDB has split with Dilma Rousseff’s governing coalition, paving the way for her impeachment and casting considerable doubt on the future of the President’s cabinet.

On Thursday, we learn that sports minister George Hilton has become the latest casualty of the political upheaval that will likely drive Rousseff from office in less than two months. “Brazil’s sports minister is resigning four months before the country hosts the Olympics, amid continuing uncertainty over the fate of six other cabinet ministers,” The Guardian wrote this afternoon, before noting that earlier this month, “Hilton left his party in an apparent bid to hold onto his job.”

Hilton had been sports minister for just over a year and although we’re sure any and all Brazilian cabinet positions come with lucrative graft opportunities, we imagine Hilton won’t end up regretting his decision to distance himself from the government and from this year’s Summer Olympics.

After all, there are quite a few very serious questions swirling around the Rio games. For instance: Will the water be clean enough for athletes to compete in? Will there be enough auxiliary power to keep the lights on? And, most importantly, will the games take place at all?

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Deutsche Bank’s Dire Warning On Global Trade: “The Currency War Is Futile”

Deutsche Bank’s Dire Warning On Global Trade: “The Currency War Is Futile”

“It’s almost like the timing belt on the global growth engine is a bit off or the cylinders are not firing as they should.”

That’s from WTO chief economist Robert Koopman, and it’s a quote we’ve used on a number of occasions. Koopman is referring to the fact that for several years in a row, the rate of growth in global trade has lagged GDP growth. That’s a problem for two reasons: 1) GDP growth is hardly robust as it is, and 2) before the recent downturn, the last time trade growth underperformed the rate of economic expansion was two decades ago.

As WSJ noted last autumn, trade growth has averaged just 3% per year. That’s half of the 1983-2008 average.

“It’s fairly obvious that we reached peak trade in 2007,” Scott Miller, trade expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank told the Journal.

Since then, the evidence has continued to pile up that global trade has flatlined. Freight volume in the US fell for the first time in three years in November, while monumental declines for Class 8 truck sales vividly demonstrate the extent to which commerce is simply grinding to a halt across the US economy. As for global trade, well, the Baltic Dry speaks for itself.

It is worse than in 2008. The oil price [is low] and freight rates are lower. The external conditions are much worse,” Maersk CEO Nils Andersen said, just last month. Maersk Line – the company’s golden goose and the world’s largest container operator – racked up $182 million in red ink last quarter alone.

In this environment the “answer” has been competitive devaluation – i.e. a currency war.

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“There Are No More Dollars In The Central Bank”: Argentina’s New President Confronts Liquidity Crisis

“There Are No More Dollars In The Central Bank”: Argentina’s New President Confronts Liquidity Crisis

On Monday, Mauricio Macri, the son of Italian-born construction tycoon Francesco Macri, beat out Cristina Kirchner’s handpicked successor Daniel Scioli for Argentina’s presidency in what amounted to a referendum on 12 years of Peronist rule.

A legacy of defaults combined with exceptionally high inflation and slow growth finally tipped the scales on the Leftists and now, Macri will try to clean up the mess.

As Citi noted in the wake of Macri’s victory (which was accompanied by some very bad dancing), “the most urgent challenge on the economic front is FX policy.” The President-elect wants to unify the official and parallel exchange rates (~9.60 and 15.50 ARS/USD, respectively) and that will of course entail a substantial devaluation. Just how overvalued is the peso, you ask? “Grossly” so, Citi says. Here’s their take:

Regarding the real overvaluation of the ARS, we estimate that real effective exchange rate has dropped (appreciated) 44% since 2011. Thus, for Argentina to have the same REER than four years ago, the USDARS should stand at 17. A different approach would be to compare the evolution of the real exchange rate vis-à-vis the USD in Argentina and other countries in the region. While the LatAm currencies (BRL, CLP, COP, MXN, PEN and UYU) real exchange rates relative to the USD have increased on average 36% since 2011, the USDARS has dropped 19% in real terms. Thus, from this point of view, the USDARS should stand 68% higher at 16.1.

 

A key figure in the execution of Macri’s currency plan is former JP Morgan global head of FX research Alfonso Prat-Gay who will be Argentina’s finance minister under the new Presdent. Prat-Gay was president of the country’s central bank beginning in 2002 and, as Reuters reminds us, “won widespread acclaim for swiftly taming runaway inflation and championing central bank independence.” If that sounds to you like characteristics that might rub a Peronist the wrong way, you’d be right, and Prat-Gay was ousted by the Kirchners.

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Don’t Forget China’s “Other” Spinning Plate: Trillions In Hidden Bad Debt

Don’t Forget China’s “Other” Spinning Plate: Trillions In Hidden Bad Debt

To be sure, there’s every reason to devote nearly incessant media coverage to China’s bursting stock market bubble and currency devaluation.

The collapse of the margin fueled equity mania is truly a sight to behold and it’s made all the more entertaining (and tragic) by the fact that it represents the inevitable consequence of allowing millions of poorly educated Chinese to deploy massive amounts of leverage on the way to driving a world-beating rally that, at its height, saw day traders doing things like bidding a recently-public umbrella manufacturer up 2,700%.

The entertainment value has been heightened by what at this point has to be some kind of inside baseball competition among media outlets to capture the most hilarious picture of befuddled Chinese traders with their hands on their faces and/or heads with a board full of crashing stock prices visible in the background. Meanwhile, the world has recoiled in horror at China’s crackdown on the media and anyone accused of “maliciously” attempting to exacerbate the sell-off by engaging in what Beijing claims are all manner of “subversive” activities such as using the “wrong” words to describe the debacle and, well, selling stocks. Finally, China’s plunge protection has been widely criticized for, as we put it, “straying outside the bounds of manipulated market decorum.”

And then there’s the yuan devaluation that, as recent commentary out of the G20 makes abundantly clear, is another example of a situation where China will inexplicably be held to a higher standard than everyone else.That is, when China moves to support its export-driven economy it’s “competitive devaluation”, but when the ECB prints €1.1 trillion, it’s “stimulus.”

 

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“This Time May Be Different”: Desperate Central Banks Set To Dust Off Asia Crisis Playbook, Goldman Warns

“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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Brazil Throws In Towel On Budget; Citi Compares Fiscal Outlook To “Bloody Terror Film”

Brazil Throws In Towel On Budget; Citi Compares Fiscal Outlook To “Bloody Terror Film”

Late last week, Brazil officially entered a recession as the economy contracted 1.9% in Q2, a quarter in which Brazilians suffered through the worst stagflation in over ten years.

What was perhaps worse than the GDP print however, was budget data for July which was meaningfully worse than expected. “On a 12-month trailing basis the consolidated public sector recorded a 0.9% of GDP primary deficit in July, worse than the 0.6% of GDP deficit recorded in December and, therefore, increasingly distant from the new unimpressive +0.15% of GDP surplus target,” Goldman noted.

We summed the situation up as follows: “No primary surplus for you!” 

And while analyzing LatAm fiscal policy doesn’t make for the most exciting reading in the universe, this particular budget battle is critical for a number of reasons, the most important of which is that Brazil’s investment grade credit rating might just depend on it and to the extent the country is forced to concede that it will not, after all, hit its primary surplus target this year, junk status could be just around the corner. Needless to say, if Brazil is cut to junk, that will do exactly nothing to help the country combat a bout of extremely negative market sentiment tied to Brazil’s rather prominent role in the great emerging market unwind.

Sure enough, government sources have now confirmed that embattled President Dilma Rousseff – whose political woes are making it nearly impossible to pass legislation designed to plug gaps – will now submit a 2016 budget proposal that projects a deficit. Here’s Bloomberg:

 

The Brazilian government will send to Congress Monday a budget proposal for 2016 that projects a primary deficit instead of the previously expected surplus, according to two government sources familiar with the matter.

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Why It Really All Comes Down To The Death Of The Petrodollar

Why It Really All Comes Down To The Death Of The Petrodollar

Last week, in the global currency war’s latest escalation, Kazakhstan instituted a free float for the tenge. The currency immediately plunged by some 25%.

The rationale behind the move was clear enough. The plunge in crude prices along with the relative weakness of the Russian ruble had severely strained Kazakhstan, which is central Asia’s largest crude exporter. As a quick look at a chart of the tenge’s effective exchange rate makes clear, the pressure had been mounting for quite a while and when China devalued the yuan earlier this month, the outlook for trade competitiveness worsened.

What might not be as clear (on the surface anyway) is how recent events in developing economy FX markets following the devaluation of the yuan stem from a seismic shift we began discussing late last year – namely, the death of the petrodollar system which has served to underwrite decades of dollar dominance and was, until recently, a fixture of the post-war global economic order. 

In short, the world seems to have underestimated how structurally important collapsing crude prices are to global finance. For years, producers funnelled their dollar proceeds into USD assets providing a perpetual source of liquidity, boosting the financial strength of the reserve currency, leading to even higher asset prices and even more USD-denominated purchases, and so forth, in a virtuous (especially if one held US-denominated assets and printed US currency) loop. That all came to an abrupt, if quiet end last year when a confluence of economic (e.g. shale production) and geopolitical (e.g. squeeze the Russians) factors led the Saudis to, as we put it, Plaxico’d themselves and the US.

The ensuing plunge in crude meant that suddenly, the flow of petrodollars was set to dry up and FX reserves across commodity producing countries were poised to come under increased pressure. For the first time in decades, exported petrodollar capital turned negative.

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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