Bloomberg News

Rousseff Says Brazil Can’t Miss Chance to Cut Interest Rates

September 30, 2011

(Updates with Rousseff comments in third paragraph.)

Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Brazil can’t let pass the opportunity afforded by the global financial crisis to lower interest rates, President Dilma Rousseff said today in her strongest call yet for the central bank to continue cutting borrowing costs.

Rousseff, at an event in Sao Paulo, said it’s “inadmissible” for policy makers not to take into account the possibility a recession and even a depression in the global economy. Government efforts to contain spending are creating space for the central bank to begin a “cautious” and “responsible” cycle of rate cuts, she said.

“As the financial crisis gets worse, this time we’ll take advantage of it,” Rousseff said to an applauding audience of business leaders. “We hope, and we can, initiate a cycle of reductions in the benchmark rate.”

Yields on interest rate futures plunged following Rousseff’s remarks, with the contract due January 2012 falling 7 basis points to 11.11 percent at 3:35 p.m. New York time. The real weakened 2.2 percent to 1.8816 per U.S. dollar.

Unlike in the wake of the September 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., when Brazil waited four months to begin interest rates, policy makers last month preemptively cut interest rates even as inflation climbed to a six-year high.

“Brazil this time can’t misjudge what’s going to happen here as a consequence of what’s happening abroad,” Rousseff said today.

Surprise Rate Cut

The surprise decision Aug. 31 to cut the Selic rate by a half-point to 12 percent come a day after Rousseff vowed to take Brazil on a “new pathway” of lower borrowing costs. That prompted analysts to speculate central bank President Alexandre Tombini had yielded to political pressure. Policy makers cited a “substantial deterioration” in the global economy to justify their decision.

The President’s remarks echo comments from the central bank in its quarterly inflation report yesterday that “moderate” rate cuts can help shield Latin America’s biggest economy from the European debt crisis without compromising the government’s inflation targets.

Finance Minister Guido Mantega at the same event today said Brazil “has all the ammunition” it needs to bring interest rates closer to levels seen in developed nations.

The same week the central bank cut the Selic rate, the government raised by 10 billion reais its target for the primary budget surplus in August, saying a more restricted fiscal stance can assist the central bank in its fight against inflation.

Mantega repeated today his and Tombini’s preference to use monetary policy instead of fiscal stimulus to buffer Brazil’s economy should the global crisis worsen.

Rousseff also said today that Brazil will not manipulate its exchange rate, even though the international financial crisis has heightened the risk that governments will resort to protectionist trade policies.

To contact the reporters on this story: Felipe Frisch in Sao Paulo at ffrisch1@bloomberg.net Matthew Bristow in Bogota at mbristow5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net


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