2017 Latin America Outlook

Amid weak commodity prices and a general downturn in regional growth, 2016 was a disappointing year for Latin America. Three out of the five largest economies experienced deep recessions – Argentina, Brazil and especially Venezuela which, according to leaked reports by the central bank, declined by -18.6% last year. In 2017, the economy is not expected to contract as deeply as it did in 2016, but even with debilitating shortages, hunger, and falling oil production, the government is unwilling to change policy direction. Hyperinflation is set to persist, at over 500%. Meanwhile, Brazilian activity is slowly recovering after last year’s recession which saw political upheaval, high inflation and tightening monetary and fiscal policies. But with inflation finally falling at a rapid rate, the central bank was able to cut interest rates by 75 basis points in January and again in February. End-2017 inflation is now expected to come in close to the bank’s mid-point target. Meanwhile, investor confidence has received a boost from the passing of a spending cap bill and government plans for tough pensions reforms. The GDP growth outlook has faltered. One year into Mauricio Macri’s market-friendly presidency in Argentina, and the hope is that investor confidence will translate into foreign investment needed to kickstart growth this year. Elsewhere, Mexico’s GDP outlook has waned on the back of uncertainty over the US’s newfound protectionist bent and the future of NAFTA. The inflation outlook has soared over the past six months as the peso experienced significant downward pressure.

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