If there is one thing proven beyond doubt during this crisis is that government interventionism in the free market is nefarious. Developing countries are again and again the victims of globalist inspired management. Argentina was one notorious case, Iceland and Greece have followed; and now Brazil, a fairly prosperous country in the last decade, is on the way to becoming another victim of artificial implosion.
Brazil’s central bank raised its policy interest rate by three quarters of a percentage point on Wednesday evening in another sign that the country’s breakneck pace of growth is causing concern over rising prices.
Brazil’s economy expanded by 2.7 per cent in the first quarter over the previous quarter and by 9 per cent over the first quarter of 2009, the national statistics office said on Tuesday. That is much faster than what many economists consider to be the potential, or non-inflationary, rate of about 4.5 to 5 per cent.
“This shows there has been no change in the bank’s position since its previous increase in April,” said Silvio Campos Neto of Banco Schahin in São Paulo. “It is clear from all the indicators that the economy is heating up and inflation is still above target. This is worrying and demands further increases in rates.”
The bank raised its target overnight Selic rate to 10.25 per cent a year, the second three-quarter-point increase at the last two six-weekly meetings of its monetary policy committee.
Consumer price inflation ballooned from a low of 4.17 per cent a year last October to 5.22 per cent in the 12 months to May. Many economists expect inflation to reach 6 per cent by the end of this year, well above the government’s target of 4.5 per cent. Economic growth is expected to be about 6.6 per cent this year.
Mr Campos said he expected the bank to raise the Selic rate to 11.75 per cent by the end of this year.
He said successive interest rate increases would help bring growth back to sustainable levels and predicted the economy would grow by about 4.3 per cent in 2011.
Brazil’s domestic market has recovered quickly from a brief recession during the global crisis, spurred on by a rising consumer class that has benefited from more than a decade of economic stability and low inflation, and from low-cost but effective income transfer programmes.
But the fast pace of growth has exposed bottlenecks such as the poor quality of Brazil’s infrastructure and its heavy tax burden. The rate of investment has risen in recent years but is still short of what is needed to deliver fast, sustainable growth.
Background: Fears of overheating
Brazil’s economy was among the fastest growing in the world during the first quarter, according to figures released on Tuesday that add to fears the economy is overheating and to expectations that the central bank will raise rates again on Wednesday.
The economy grew at a faster-than-expected annual rate of 9 per cent in the three months to March and by 2.7 per cent compared with the previous quarter, according to the IBGE, the national statistics office.
Part of the reason for the growth was an increase in investment, with the rate of investment rising to 18 per cent from 16.3 per cent a year earlier, spurred by gross fixed capital formation, which leapt by 26 per cent year on year, the fastest rate since the IBGE’s current series began in 1995.
“This confirms that the economy is very heated,” said Rafael Bacciotti, economist at Tendências, a consultancy in São Paulo. “The stand-out sectors were industry and services. Employment and wages are also growing strongly and we expect this to continue throughout the year.”
The manufacturing industry grew by 17.2 per cent year on year and the retail sector by 15.2 per cent. Imports also set a record, surging by 39.5 per cent year on year.
The central bank’s most recent weekly survey of market economists showed expectations of overall growth this year rising to 6.6 per cent, the 12th consecutive week of climbing expectations.
But many believe the economy cannot grow at more than 4.5 or 5 per cent a year without provoking an increase in inflation.
The central bank has been forced to act by steadily rising inflation expectations over recent months. Since October, Brazil’s consumer inflation rate has surged from an annual rate of 4.17 per cent to 5.26 per cent in April. However, the central bank’s most recent survey showed a slight drop in forecasts for inflation during 2010, with the average falling to 5.64 per cent from 5.67 per cent a week earlier.
Most economists expect the central bank to announce a second consecutive three-quarter percentage point rise in its policy interest rate, the Selic, at the end of its monetary policy committee’s regular two-day meeting tomorrow.
The committee meets every six weeks to decide whether to change the Selic rate in pursuit of the government’s annual consumer price inflation target, currently 4.5 per cent a year.
If expectations are confirmed, the Selic will rise to 10.25 per cent a year, up from 8.75 per cent when the current tightening cycle began in April.