growth in 2000 sets pace for this year. According to the
National Statistical Institute (IBGE), gross domestic product grew 4.2%
last year, the strongest expansion since 1995 and a substantial
improvement over the 0.8% growth registered in 1999. Growth was
levelled across all sectors with industry experiencing the strongest
growth rate of 4.8%, while services and agriculture grew 3.6% and 2.9%
respectively. However, the data also show that growth in the fourth
quarter slowed from the 5.5% annual expansion registered in the third
quarter to 4.4% in the fourth quarter. The slowdown can be
attributed principally to a 2.4% contraction in the agricultural sector
(forestry -19.6%), since growth in industry and services remained healthy
at 4.7% and 4.1% respectively.
optimistic. January data indicate that the economy
continues to proceed along a favourable growth path. The downward
trend in unemployment and declining interest rates continue to drive
consumption growth. According to the São Paulo Retail Federation (FECESP),
retails sales in the São Paulo metropolitan area increased 16.3% in
January over the same month in 2000, driven by strong growth in sales of
durable consumer goods (+35.2%) and construction materials (+28.6%).
Similarly, the Retail Association of São Paulo (ACSP, Associação
Comercial do Estado de São Paulo) reported that retail sales as measured
by debit card payments continued to accelerate in February, with sales up
5.8% over February last year. The most recent GDP data did not yet
provide global aggregate demand and supply data but this month’s
Consensus Forecast indicates that consumption is likely to have grown at a
healthy pace last year and will accelerate in both 2001 and 2002.
picking up. Investment also seems to have received a
strong boost last year, with production of capital goods up 12.9% in
December. Panellists expect that investment expanded strongly in
2000, driven by healthy export growth and the strong industrial output
expansion. The quarterly business confidence index of the Brazilian
National Confederation of Industry (CNI), which measures sentiment over
current economic conditions and the expectations for the Brazilian
economy, rose 3.0% in the fourth quarter of last year. January data
indicate that investment continues to pick up. Annual capital goods
imports were up 4.9% over the same month last year, led by transport
equipment and capital goods parts for industry. Panellists see
investment moderating slightly this year but growing at a healthy pace and
continuing at a strong growth rate next year.
market sentiment persists.
As a result of the continued acceleration in consumption and
investment, growth will be strong in all four quarters this year.
Additionally, the pace is expected to carry over to next year, when
growth is seen accelerating further.
Panellist sentiment about next year is also improving as the growth
forecast for 2002 was bumped up a notch over last month.
inflation but Central Bank waits. The mid-February
IBGE-IPCA 15 index, which covers price increases for the first half of the
month, increased 0.50%, down from a 0.63% increase in January. Even
though the consumer price index for the São Paulo metropolitan are
released by the São Paulo Fundação Instituto de Pesquisas Econômicas (FIPE)
confirmed the price moderation in February, the annual rate rose from 4.2%
in January to 4.5% in February. The Consensus expects consumer
prices to rise moderately in February, which would raise the annual rate
to above the January figure. Panellists believe that the Central
Bank will overshoot the 4.0% inflation target for this year. Even
though significant inflationary pressures remain absent, the Central Bank
decided to maintain the benchmark overnight rate (SELIC) at 15.25%,
following the 75 and 50 basis point cuts in December and January
respectively. The Central Bank cited lingering concerns about the
current trajectory of international oil prices as the key motive behind
maintaining current interest rate levels but reiterated its confidence
that the fundamentals for reaching this year’s inflation target remain
intact. Reduced inflationary pressures are likely to provide
the backdrop for further monetary easing by the Central Bank this year.