Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Canarinho In The Coal Mine

Brazil's economy is falling apart at this point, President Dilma Rouseff is barely holding on, unemployment is rising quickly along with inflation and the country is now facing its worst recession in a century.

Brazil's economy shrank by 3.8 percent in 2015, the government said Thursday, with the biggest contraction in 25 years set to push the Latin American giant into its worst recession for more than a century.

The latest gloomy news from Brazil was no surprise, but the severity underlined the depth of problems facing President Dilma Rousseff's government as it battles both declining economic output and 10.67 percent inflation.

The state statistics office said 2015 registered the worst single annual fall in GDP since 1990, a year when the economy dipped 4.3 percent.

With the International Monetary Fund predicting a further 3.5 percent shrinkage this year, Brazil appears to be well into a recession that would be worse than any on government record going back to 1901.

The GDP results shove Brazil into the bottom bracket for performance in Latin America, where it is easily the biggest economy. Only Venezuela, with what the IMF estimates was a 10 percent plummet in GDP, is worse off.

Leading Brazil's slide was the industrial sector, which was down 6.2 percent in 2015. In the last quarter of 2015 the all-important mining sector was down 6.6 percent, reflecting the worldwide slump in commodity prices and demand for Brazil's iron ore and other raw materials.

When times were good, Brazil's natural resource bounty was a good source of income for the country as China grabbed everything it could in order to build, build, build. Now that China's economic engine has blown a gasket and is sputtering, Brazil's financial picture has turned very dark.

The slump has made Brazil increasingly toxic on the investor landscape. Last week, Moody's became the third big credit rating agency to downgrade Brazil to junk status, warning of slow recovery and political uncertainty.

A Markit Brazil Services survey of the private sector released Thursday found a record contraction in economic activity in February, as "companies continued to link the adverse operating environment to the ongoing economic, financial and political crises."

"The Brazilian economic downturn took a real turn for the worse in February, as the financial and political difficulties in the country drove down output and led to reduced order intakes," said Rob Dobson, author of the report.

"The domestic market is especially weak" and "the labor market also appears to be in dire straits."

Brazilian economists warn that 2016 could turn out to be worse than the IMF's prediction, with the economy shrinking even more than in 2015.

"Brazil has never had such a high level of uncertainty and this is freezing everything up. There is no consumption or investment or credit with this historic level of uncertainty," Daniel Cunha, an analyst at XP Investimentos in Sao Paulo, said.

Brazil used to be the leader of the BRIC nations, emerging markets in Brazil, Russia, India and China were powering the global economy.  Now?  The BRIC is broke, and Brazil has definitely fallen the hardest.  And most of that can be pinned on Rouseff and Brazil's ruling party, and her predecessor, former President Lula who has just been detained in the state's ongoing national oil company bribery scandal.

Brazil's in real trouble, folks.  It's not going to get better anytime soon.

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