2Q17 GDP increased 0.2% quarter-over-quarter seasonally-adjusted, better than the market’s forecast (0.0 %).
Talk of the Day
The 2Q17 GDP will be released today at 9:00 AM (SP time). We expect it to be flat on quarter-over-quarter seasonally adjusted terms. Despite the weak headline, 2Q17 was marked by stronger underlying growth, as opposed to the observed in 1Q17.
Unemployment falls in July, driven by gains in informal jobs. The nation-wide unemployment rate reached 12.8% in July, below our estimate and the median of market expectations (both at 13.0%).The indicator increased 1.2 p.p. from 11.6% one year earlier. Applying our seasonal adjustment, the unemployment rate slipped to 12.7% from 12.9% in June, marking a fourth consecutive month of declines in the indicator. Employment advanced 0.5% mom/sa (0.2% yoy) in the first positive reading for the latter in 23 months. However, formal jobs in the private sector were stable at the margin, so that the gain in employment was driven by the other categories, particularly self-employment. ** Full story here.
According to ABRAS, supermarket sales rose 0.2% mom/sa in July (using our calculation). Supermarket sales are showing an upward trend in 2017. Along with other indicators, it contributes to our vision of a gradual recovery in economic activity. IBGE will release its Monthly Survey of Commerce for July on September 12, and we forecast a 0.1% mom/sa increase in core retail sales (+3.3% yoy). Our preliminary forecast for the broad segment, which includes vehicle sales and construction material, is a 0.2% mom/sa decrease (+5.2% yoy).
Macro Vision: reforms could bring Brazil’s potential GDP to 3.5%. In this report, our macro team argues that a fiscal adjustment that increases domestic savings and stabilizes public debt, combines with the implementation of microeconomic reforms, could bring potential GDP to 3.5%. Without these adjustments, potential GDP would be close to 1.5%.** Full story here.
Banrep cut the policy rate in August by 25bps, to 5.25%, in line with our expectation and that of the vast majority of market analysts. However, the voting came in as a surprise. The decision was a three-way split, with two of the seven board members preferring a larger cut of 50bps, one member opted for no rate move, while the remaining four members were in the majority. The press release announcing the decision notes that the current real interest rate is compatible with inflation converging to the 3% target in the relevant policy horizon. Furthermore, it says that some indicators suggest that the real rate is close to its neutral level (contrasting with previous statements, in which the central bank labeled the level of interest rate as tight). Speaking to the press, general manager Juan José Echavarría indicated that this could be one of the final rate cuts of the year (after a 250bps easing cycle).
We expect the central bank to stay on hold until the end of this year, but we anticipate further easing to resume in the first quarter of next year (bringing the policy rate to 4.5%). In our view, the level of policy rate is still tight. In fact, Echavarría recently mentioned he saw a real neutral rate at 1.4%, which means a nominal neutral rate around 4.5% once inflation expectations fall to the target. Hence, as the economy continues weak and inflationary pressure fade, further rate cuts are likely. However, depending on how inflation unfolds for the remainder of the year, there exists a risk that the expected rate cuts are brought forward. ** Full story here.
We see the total unemployment rate averaging 9.0% this year (9.2% last year), brought down by the performance in the rural environment. The deterioration of the labor market dynamics in urban areas (where formal employment is more prevalent) will likely limit support for a consumption recovery ahead. ** Full story here.
In July, the public deficit narrowed further, providing the last picture of the fiscal accounts before the announcement of the 2018 budget bill. Resulting from exchange rate gains on international reserves during the previous year, the Central Bank’s dividend – which reached a historical high in 2017 (MXN 322 billion, 1.5% of GDP) – accounts for the bulk of the improvement in fiscal accounts seen recently. Nevertheless, as we have been pointing out, the fiscal deficit indicators are narrowing beyond this windfall revenue. In fact, even if 70% of the amount of the dividends received in past years is excluded, the 12-month rolling primary balance reached a MXN 52 billion surplus (0.2% of GDP) in July, from a MXN 40 billion surplus in June. Likewise, using the same metric (ex-dividend), the 12-month nominal fiscal deficit narrowed to MXN 452 billion (2.1% of GDP), from MXN 471 billion in June, and the public sector borrowing requirements narrowed to MXN 535 billion (2.5% of GDP), from MXN 577 billion previously.
We do not expect the 2018 budget to take the pace of fiscal consolidation up a notch, compared to what was already pre-announced in the “pre-criterios” (pre-budget) document published in April. As of now, the government is targeting public sector borrowing requirements of 2.5% of GDP in 2018, more ambitious than the target set for 2017 (2.9%; July: 1.5% of GDP). The fact that there are presidential elections next year (which is usually associated to higher government spending in Mexico) reduces the probability of extra fiscal efforts. Also, with the rating agencies – S&P and Fitch – recently removing the negative outlook for Mexico’s sovereign rating, policy makers are now under less pressure. In fact, the Finance Minister, José Antonio Meade, has stated that the 2018 budget is unlikely to show any surprises in terms of greater fi scal consolidation efforts. ** Full story here.
The public sector, along with non-salaried employment, continues to prop up job growth. In the quarter ending in July, the unemployment rate reached 6.9%, down by 0.2 p.p. in 12 months. The print came in below the 7.1% market consensus, but closer to our 7.0% estimate. Employment growth picked up to 2.2% (2Q17: 1.9%), the fastest rate since 3Q15. However, once hours worked are considered, employment is growing at a low 0.8%, stable from 1Q17. Furthermore, private salaried employment remains weak.
The dynamics of the labor market mirror a lethargic economy with minimal private waged job creation. An increase in the unemployment rate has been contained by non-salaried and public sector job growth. We expect the unemployment rate to average 7.0% this year (2016: 6.5%), signaling still low consumption dynamics this year. ** Full story here.
Key members of the economic team in President Bachelet’s cabinet – the Minister and Vice-Minister of Finance and the Minister of Economy – resigned from their posts. The move follows discrepancies in opinion over the rejection of an iron and copper mining project in the center-north region of Coquimbo on environmental concerns. Mr. Valdés will be replaced by Nicolás Eyzaguirre, until now the Minister Secretary of the Presidency. Meanwhile, Jorge Rodriguez Grossi, until now President of state-owned Banco Estado, will replace Felipe Céspedes at the Ministry of Economy. Finally, Mr. Eyzaguirre will be replaced by Gabriel De la Fuente as Minister Secretary of the Presidency, until now the undersecretary of the same Ministry.
Beyond reputational damage, we expect no material change in terms of policy. We see Mr. Eyzaguirre will maintaining a responsible management of public finances. Yet, we note that fluid relationship between Mr. Eyzaguirre and the President could smooth the discussion of key economic bills such as the upcoming budget, the pension reform bill and the educational reform (the latter two currently in congress).
Industrial activity rose by 5.9% yoy in July, marking the third consecutive increase after several months posting contraction. During the first seven months of the year, manufacturing grew 0.8% yoy against the same period one year ago. Indec, which started to produce annual rates of change last year, does not provide yet the original series and the seasonal adjusted figures. The increase was led by non-metallic minerals (15%) reflecting growth of construction materials. Basic metals rose by 11% yoy while plastic and rubber expanded 7.8% yoy. On the negative side, the textil sector dropped 3.0% yoy in July and 12.6% yoy between January and July.
Indec also reported that construction activity improved a solid 20.3% yoy in July relative to the same month one year ago. This is the fifth consecutive strong positive year-over-year development, leading to a 8.9% yoy growth during the seven months of the year. Employment in the sector rose 1.4% yoy, marking also the fifth consecutive gain. According to the qualitative survey, 52% of the companies involved in public works expect activity to increase in the period August-October, compared to 36% in the case of companies involved in private works.
Market Conditions Index: more expansionary financial conditions. Financial conditions in the region as a whole receded slightly to 0.70 (from 0.77 in July). Thus, the three-month moving average reached 0.15 (from -0.07 in the previous month). The increase was widespread among the LatAm countries, with positive contributions from Brazil (with an increase in financial conditions), Colombia (currency appreciation), Peru (widespread improvement in its components, especially gold), and Chile (stock exchange improvement and currency appreciation). At the opposite end, Mexico contributed negatively in the month, influenced by drops in oil prices and the stock market.