The Brazilian economy will likely pick up speed in the second half of this year due to monetary easing, but the growth could put pressure on the government’s inflation target in 2013, the International Monetary Fund concluded in its statement after a visit to Brazil by its Executive Board last week.
Here is their full statement:
The past decade has seen a remarkable social transformation in Brazil, underpinned by macroeconomic stability and rising living standards. A strong policy framework (fiscal responsibility, inflation targeting and a flexible exchange rate), and improved income distribution and social outcomes have been important accomplishments. Together with terms of trade gains and economic and financial inclusion, this has supported sizable gains in private consumption and some increase in investment. Financial stability has been underpinned by a strong banking system and framework for regulation and supervision.
More recently, Brazil’s economy has slowed and growth surprised on the downside last year. A policy tightening cycle was appropriately launched during 2010-11 to cool overheating pressures and bring inflation gradually back to target. Macroprudential measures were also introduced to reduce stability risks in specific sectors. Growth stalled in 2011 Q3 and slowed to 2.7 percent in 2011, in part reflecting the impact of external shocks.
Monetary policy has since been eased substantially though its effect on the real economy has taken hold more gradually than in previous cycles, while the primary surplus target for 2012 has been kept unchanged at 3.1 percent of GDP. The economy expanded only slowly in early 2012, reflecting weak investment and business confidence and slowing trade volumes.
Industrial output remains sluggish. However, consumption has been recovering since late 2011 on the back of improving confidence and buoyant labor market conditions, including the large minimum wage increase.
Inflation is falling but medium term expectations have risen above the target mid-point. After peaking at over 7 percent in September 2011, annual headline inflation has dropped to 5 percent in May. This decline reflects to some extent the unwinding of transitory supply factors and the effect of the normal periodic updating of the index weights. The lagged impact of moderating growth and the negative output gap has also exerted some downward pressure.
Credit has grown very rapidly in Brazil over the last years with a substantial increase in the credit-to-GDP ratio. A significant portion of this likely reflects financial deepening. With the gains on income and inclusion post-2003, new borrowers have obtained access to finance. Legal reforms have substantially strengthened creditor rights. Moreover, the overall level of financial development remains low by international standards, a factor that lowers stability risks. More recently, credit growth has moderated in line with the economy, reducing the risks of overheating in some sectors, while the large buffers in the system limit stability risks.
Capital flows have slowed in recent months. Portfolio flows remain very modest, in part due to the traction the authorities have achieved with various capital flow management measures, but also due to increased risk aversion in global financial markets. However, foreign direct investment inflows (FDI) are still buoyant and continue to largely fund the current account. As capital flows have moderated, the exchange rate has depreciated significantly against the U.S. dollar, although it remains above the average levels of 2004-08 in real effective terms.
Executive Board Assessment
Executive Directors commended the authorities’ commitment to a strong policy framework, which has delivered a decade of macroeconomic stability and rising living standards. Appropriately calibrating policy to changing economic conditions and increasing saving and investment will be important challenges for the period ahead.
Directors welcomed the recent reorientation of the policy mix toward generating fiscal savings and providing monetary countercyclical support. They encouraged the authorities to meet their deficit target for the year to secure a declining path for the debt ratio and further boost the credibility of their fiscal plans. Directors considered that monetary policy has been appropriately eased, but noted that the authorities should stand ready to unwind the monetary stimulus if their inflation target appears at risk.
Directors agreed that exchange rate flexibility and liquidity provision provide first lines of defense against adverse external shocks. They also noted that capital flow management measures (CFMs) have been a useful addition to the policy toolkit in a turbulent financial environment. A few Directors cautioned, however, that CFMs, while helpful in the short run, do not fully address important underlying drivers of capital inflows, could affect domestic liquidity, and may adversely impact other capital flow recipients.
Directors considered that further efforts are needed to rebalance demand from consumption to investment and net exports. They took note of the staff’s assessment that the real effective exchange rate remains on the strong side despite a significant depreciation from peak levels a year ago. Directors welcomed recent steps to strengthen saving and competitiveness, including pension and tax reforms, but saw the need for further reforms to raise productivity. Public investment financed by fiscal saving and further capital market deepening will also be important.
Directors welcomed the findings of the FSAP Update that the financial sector is well regulated and supervised and that the banking system is well-placed to cope with shocks. Nonetheless, they considered that rapid consumer credit growth, rising real estate prices, and continued credit expansion by public banks call for continued vigilance and careful prudential oversight. Directors commended the authorities’ plans to bring forward the implementation of elements of Basel III, continue to make active use of macroprudential policy tools, and further boost the soundness of the financial sector.
For the complete IMF report on Brazil, click here.
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund