Central Bank Committee projects ongoing cuts of 50 basis points “in the upcoming meetings”
Central Bank’s Copom suggested similar reductions “in the next few meetings” should economic conditions unfold as projected — Foto: Beto Nociti/BCB
The Brazilian Central Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (Copom) has once again lowered the Selic (Brazil’s benchmark interest rate) rate, this time to 11.25% per annum, marking the fifth consecutive decrease at a meeting on Wednesday. The committee suggested it might continue with similar reductions “in the next few meetings” should economic conditions unfold as projected. This unanimous decision aligns with market expectations and mirrors the stance of the previous meeting.
Without specifying an endpoint for the current cycle of monetary easing, the Central Bank reiterated its commitment to a contractionary policy aimed at reining in inflation and restoring inflation expectations to target levels.
It also highlighted that future rate cuts would depend on the trajectory of inflationary pressures, including those prices most responsive to monetary policy and economic activity, long-term market inflation expectations, their own inflation forecasts, economic slack, and external and fiscal risks that might skew inflation away from its predicted path.
A survey by Valor Data, conducted before the decision, revealed that out of 142 financial institutions and consultancies polled, 141 anticipated a 50-basis points reduction in the Selic rate. Only one financial analyst projected a 0.75-BP cutoff. The mid-point expectations are centering on a 9% rate by the end of 2024.
Copom noted the current phase of disinflation is “unfolding more gradually” than initially experienced, due in part to the diminishing impact of lower commodity and industrial goods prices. The committee states inflation expectations have “only partially” realigned with the government’s 3% target, with the market projecting a 3.5% inflation rate over the long term. According to the Central Bank, the global scenario remains “challenging.”
Regarding the international scene, Copom acknowledged ongoing volatility spurred by discussions on the commencement of monetary easing in major economies and “persistent high core inflation rates across numerous countries,” which are falling. In the previous press release, Copom still saw “incipient” signs of the falling core rates. Compared to December, the committee has adjusted its previous assessment of a “less adverse” external environment, citing the recent “moderation of longer-term interest rates in the United States.”
The committee underscored that central banks in major economies are steadfast in their aim to steer inflation towards their targets, notwithstanding labor market pressures.
Domestically, Copom observed that consumer inflation continues on a disinflationary path “as expected,” with recent data showing underlying inflation measures “nearing the target.”
Copom’s inflation forecasts suggest Brazil’s benchmark inflation index IPCA will decline from 4.62% in 2023 to 3.5% in 2024 and 3.2% in 2025, assuming the Selic rate ends in 2024 at 9% per annum. These projections remain consistent with those outlined in December, which used a Selic of 9.2% at the end of 2024.
The projections for monitored prices were 4.2% in 2024 and 3.8% in 2025. The previous projection was pegged at 4.5% for 2024 and 3.6% in 2025. The committee also stressed that its relevant horizon is now 2024, with the focus now extending more significantly to 2025.
The risk factors for inflation remain consistent with its December decision, which saw the Selic rate decrease from 12.25% to 11.75% annually. The committee identified two primary upside risks: the enduring nature of global inflationary pressures and an unexpected resilience in services inflation, attributed to “a tighter output gap [a measure of the economy’s idleness].”
Copom also pointed out two significant downside risks: the potential for a more acute slowdown in global economic activity than anticipated and a more pronounced disinflationary effect resulting from coordinated monetary tightening across economies. “The Committee believes that the economic environment, particularly due to the international scenario, remains uncertain and calls for caution in the conduct of monetary policy,” it stated.
Furthermore, Copom underscored the critical importance of “achieving the fiscal objectives that have been established.” Highlighting the government’s ambition to eliminate the public sector’s primary deficit this year, following a deficit equivalent to 1.3% of the GDP in 2024, the committee stressed the relevance of this goal for anchoring inflation expectations and guiding monetary policy. “The committee reaffirms the importance of firmly pursuing these targets,” the statement said.
The January meeting’s decision to further reduce the Selic rate by 50 BP continues the trend initiated in August 2023, when the benchmark rate stood at 13.75%. This latest adjustment marks the fifth consecutive cut of identical magnitude.
Prior to this easing cycle, the Selic rate was maintained at 13.75% for 12 months starting from August 2022, capping a bullish cycle that commenced in March 2021 and concluded in August 2022.
Throughout this period, Copom escalated interest rates to 13.75% from 2% annually, executing a substantial 11.75-percentage-point hike as part of the Central Bank’s strategy to curb inflation in the wake of the pandemic.
Copom has scheduled its next meeting for March 19 and 20.
*Por Gabriel Shinohara, Alex Ribeiro — Brasília, São Paulo
Source: Valor International