Emerging markets: Brazil's real sinks near central bank trigger

Nov 22 2012, 12:31 IST
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SummaryThe Brazilian real neared a level that has triggered central bank interventions.

The Brazilian real led losses among Latin American currencies on Wednesday, nearing a level that has triggered central bank interventions in the past, as investors speculated the government would favor a weaker currency to boost the economy.

The Mexican peso also weakened, although a more modest 0.4 percent, after failure by international lenders to agree on emergency aid for Greece drove a bid for safe-haven assets such as the dollar.

The Brazilian real lost 0.66 percent to 2.0944 per dollar, just shy of the ceiling of an informal trading range of 2.0-2.1 per dollar, where it has been stuck since early July.

In the past several months, the central bank has intervened in the market every time the real has neared the edge of that range, keeping the currency at a level considered beneficial to exporters, and at the same time, not too bad for inflation.

But concerns that Brazil's economy is taking too long to recover have increased speculation that this time the government would let the real weaken past the 2.1 per dollar mark. Such adjustment would be minor, however, to minimize inflation pressures.

"Given a history of raising the ranges for the dollar-real exchange rate over time, we imagine that the central bank is not going to defend the 2.10 level," Citigroup's strategists Dirk Willer and Kenneth Lam wrote in a research note.

"Raising the upper end of the ceiling to 2.12 or potentially to 2.15 does seem plausible," they added.

Expectations that the government is about to let the currency weaken further grew after President Dilma Rousseff told local daily Valor Economico, in an interview published on Tuesday, "We're looking for an exchange rate that is not this one, with a devalued dollar and an overvalued real."

Joao Medeiros, a currency director with Pioneer brokerage in Sao Paulo, said, "I don't see the fundamentals of this currency move, but according to what Dilma said, the government wants a weaker real."

In a note to clients, Nomura strategists said they expect the real to weaken to 2.14 per dollar in the near future.

INFLATION CONCERNS

Other analysts expressed concern that a weaker currency could further boost the price of imported grains and other commodities, boosting an inflation rate that is already running above the government target of 4.5 percent, with a tolerance band of 2 percentage points up or down.

"With economic activity gaining momentum, another round of real depreciation could have a larger effect

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