Emerging Market Debt Indicator February 2023
Following a recent trip to Brazil and Mexico, Christine Reed reports on a deeply contrasting picture. In addition, the wider investment team provides an update across the EM debt universe.
1 Nov 2022
Brazil’s left-leaning former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (‘Lula’) has won the final round of Brazil’s presidential election, beating right-wing incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro by a small margin (securing 50.9% of total votes). For more background on the two candidates, please see an article we wrote earlier this year.
Investors’ immediate concerns relate to the implications for fiscal policy and social stability. We think risks associated with these are relatively contained:
Reflecting all of the above, the fixed income market reaction has been positive overall, especially in FX (the real gained around 2% against the US dollar). The key signposts to watch are Bolsonaro’s reaction to the result and Lula’s eventual economic appointments.
Beyond the immediate political noise, there are other considerations for EM debt investors. Key among these is monetary policy. Brazil is among a number of Latin American economies that have led the way on policy orthodoxy this year, both within EM and on the global stage. Most Latin American central bankers report that their economies are functioning as normal and that rate hikes will be effective in bringing down inflation. There is no material change to neutral real rate assumptions relative to the pre-COVID/Ukraine war period, and consensus is that many markets – Brazil being a key example – are now close to the end of their rate-hiking cycles. This confirms our view that there are some attractive opportunities in the region for EM local bond market investors.
Longer-term, one area we will be watching closely is the new administration’s approach to climate policy. Under President Bolsonaro, we witnessed a backtracking on Brazil’s climate effort. For instance, Brazil was one of the few countries to have submitted less ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) at COP26. Bolsonaro also undermined environmental institutions, especially with respect to their battle against deforestation; deforestation reached its highest level in a decade under Bolsonaro’s administration and the government’s goal to reduce deforestation by 80% in 2020 relative to 2005 was missed. Future policy direction will be key to watch. You can read more about Brazil’s sustainability credentials in our recently published ESG report.
All investments carry the risk of capital loss.