News from Brazil

Brazil Weekly, January 24th

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2010 at 11:54 am

POLITICS

Gandhi had to wait until 34 years after his death before he appeared on cinema screens around the world. George Bush junior, by contrast, was the victim of an Oliver Stone biopic during the last year of his presidency. Now a Brazilian director, Fábio Barreto, has done the same for Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, as he starts his final year of office (The Economist).

It is 25 years since Brazil moved from dictatorship to democracy, but its army remains surprisingly unreformed. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was rudely reminded of this just before Christmas when he signed a decree calling for a truth commission to investigate torture, killings and disappearances during military rule between 1964 and 1985. Within 24 hours the heads of the three armed forces threatened to resign along with Nelson Jobim, the defence minister. Lula seemed quick to retreat. He was reported as saying the government would think again (The Economist).

Speculation is intensifying over the political future of Henrique Meirelles, Brazil’s central bank chief, as October’s general elections draw closer, raising concerns over the continuity of monetary policy (Reuters).

2010 will mark the election of the 36th official President of the Brazilian Republic. Although the official calendar for campaigning does not begin until October 3rd, the political atmosphere is already dense with debate. The deadline for candidate registry isn’t until July 5th, but with parties looking to affiliate themselves to recent Brazilian political triumphs – such as the Olympics – a handful of pre-candidates for the presidency are already popping into the limelight. Amongst the many who plan to run, the current forerunners are: Marina Silva (PV-AC), José Serra (PSDB-SP), Dilma Rousseff (PT), and Ciro Gomes (PSB-CE). Check them out at Rio Times.

ECONOMY

Brazilian households like to buy the newest gadget and prefer to spend on items that will enhance their short-term wellbeing rather than save for a rainy day. This partly explains Brazil’s low saving rate – which has fluctuated around 17 per cent of GDP over the last decade, a number that contrasts sharply with China’s 45-50 per cent. Read the view by Arminio Fraga.

Brazil’s economy should grow 5.2 percent in 2010, the country’s finance minister said, underscoring a strong rebound in Latin America’s largest economy (Reuters).

The European Union and Mercosur, the South American trade bloc led by Brazil and Argentina, are studying restarting talks this year to reach a free-trade agreement, an EU trade official said (Bloomberg).

Brazilian exports to the US fell by 42 percent in 2009, to US$15.7 billion, with China replacing the US as Brazil’s top export market, with US$19.9 billion of exports, or more than 13 percent of all Brazil’s exports, according to figures released by the Ministry of Trade (Rio Times).

BANKING & FINANCE

Banco Bradesco, Brazil’s second-largest private-sector bank, said it agreed to buy Mexican bank Ibi Mexico for an undisclosed sum, marking its first international foray in retail banking as it seeks to take advantage of rising credit demand (Reuters).

Brazil’s state-run utility holding Eletrobras plans to raise $4 billion this year to hedge costs associated with the commercialization of energy from the giant Itaipu dam. However, that money will not go to paying overdue dividends, company president Jose Antonio Muniz said. Eletrobras will pay those dividends from its own funds, he said. The company agreed earlier on Friday to pay 10.33 billion reais ($5.65 billion) in overdue dividends dating to the 1970s (Reuters).

Qatar is interested in buying minority stakes in Petrobras and Banco do Brasil, a Brazilian cabinet official told Reuters. The country’s investment agency already owns a $300 million stake in Brazil’s Vale, the world’s largest iron ore miner (Reuters).

OIL

Brazilian oil and gas start-up company OGX Petroleo e Gas Participacoes saidit had found signs of hydrocarbons in a well in the southern part of the offshore Campos basin (Reuters).

MINING

A Brazilian scientist is developing a method of purifying contaminated waste water that accumulates at mining sites by using a genetically modified bacteria that can absorb heavy metals (Reuters).

INVESTMENT

Carrefour SA, Europe’s biggest retailer, plans to invest 2.5 billion reais ($1.4 billion) in Brazil in the next two years to expand in the north and northeast regions of Latin America’s largest economy (Bloomberg).

REAL ESTATE

Housing prices in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro will jump as much as 40 percent in the next year as record-low interest rates and a growing Brazil economy boost demand, according to the chief executive officer of Gafisa SA (Bloomberg).

AIR TRAVEL

The continuing growth of the domestic airline industry has stimulated investors and over the last few months more airlines have obtained permits to begin operations while others have obtained concessions for new domestic routes (Rio Times).

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