Thursday, 23 October 2008

Financial & Economic Crisis hits Latin America

It was the turn of Latin America's stock market to take a nose dive this Wednesday - "Dark day for faltering LatAm stocks" . In Chile they dropped 6.3%, in Mexico by 7 %, in Brazil by 10%, and last but by no means least Argentina, where they dropped by 18%.

The magnitude of the drop in Argentina was provoked when President Cristina Fernandez announced plans to nationalise the private pension funds.

She said the nationalisation would protect retirement funds from the global financial crisis, but analysts said the move would drain company access to private capital. Argentina's Congress is expected to approve the proposal within weeks. BBC News: "Turmoil in Latin American Markets".

Privare investors have been upin arms, not least a Merrill Lynch executive who stated bluntly that his bank had now written off any investment plans in Argentina "for at least the next half decade." - AFP, "Latin America in Jaws of Global Crisis"

As I mentioned in an earlier post - "Global Depression: So What About Latin America" - much of the worry in Latin America on the back of the current world financial crisis, stems not so much from the so-called credit crunch, but rather the sharp recession that's meant to hit the world's major markets in the Northern hemisphere, and the decline in commodity prices that it will entail.

Correspondents say international demand is declining for many of Latin America's commodity exports, including oil, copper, iron ore and soy as global growth slows amid the current financial global crisis BBC News, "Turmoil in Latin American Markets".

Whilst demand may be faltering in the US and Europe, demand from the likes of China is still bouyant.
This is not to say that all is as gloomy as one could fear. Precious global recessions have tended to hit Latin America harder than most. The analogy of "when the US economy sneezes, the rest of the world cathces a cold, but Latin America catches phnuemonia" having proven to be quite fitting in th past. This time round things may be slightly different. According to former Mexican foreign minister, Jorge Castañeda:

the region would be largely impervious to the recent crisis. Mexico, Chile, Brazil and Uruguay should manage just fine, emerging with only bruises and scrapes, he argued. Colombia and Peru would weather the storm, though suffering greater harm. But he warned of "severe damage" for Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Central America and the Caribbean. BBC News, "Brazil squares up to an economic storm"

The severe damage awaiting Venezuela has much to do with the sudden drop in oil prices. Overdependent on oil revenues, Venezuela's extensive public spending could be seriouly affected if oil prices continue on this downward trend. It is therefore no surprise that Venezuela qill be pushing for oil output cuts at this week's hastily convened OPEC gathering in Vienna.

Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael D. Ramirez said the OPEC members "have to take some action now, now," adding that Friday's meeting will reach "consensus to take a very, very, very fast action." Xinhua, "OPEC members divided over oilput cut"

Last week I attended a public meeting at the Houses of Parliament here in London, where Venezuelan ambassador to the UK, Samuel Moncada, whilst almost gleeful in his depiction of the collapse of the world's financial system, had to admit that Venezuela faced difficult times ahead. So what about all the windfall funds from record-high oil prices that the Venezuelan had been meant to have store away for precisely those times when the oil prices were on the fall? Well, according to the ambassador this would only cover Venezuela's problems for a mere 2-3 months.

1 comment:

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