sábado, 13 de dezembro de 2008
O Exterminador do Futuro 4
My Chemical Romance - I Don't Love You
Well, when you go
don't ever think I'll make
you try to stay
And maybe when you get back
I'll be off to find another way
When after all this
time that you still
You're still the
So take your gloves and get out
Better get out
While you can
When you go
Would you even turn to say
"I don't love you
Like I did
Sometimes I cry so
hard from pleading
So sick and tired
of all the needless
But baby when they knock you
Down and out
It's where you oughta stay
And after all the blood
that you still owe
just another blow
So fix your eyes and get up
Better get up
While you can
When you go
Would you even turn to say
"I don't love you
Like I did
Well come on, come on
When you go
Would you have the guts to say
"I don't love you
Like I loved you
Say, I don't love you
Like I loved you
Say, I don't love you
Like I loved you
From http://www.ImprovEverywhere.com, over 200 people freeze in place on cue in Grand Central Station in New York.
This is one of over 70 different missions Improv Everywhere has executed over the past six years in New York City. Others include the No Pants Subway Ride, the Best Buy uniform prank, and the famous U2 Rooftop Hoax, to name a few. Visit the website to see tons of photos and video of all of our work, including behind the scenes information on how this video was made.
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sexta-feira, 12 de dezembro de 2008
What Are the Impacts of the Current Financial Crisis On the Brazilian Economy?
In the last months, the sub-prime crisis was aggravated, culminating with severe financial difficulties of some important North-American and European banks and companies. While there is still some discussion on how deep will the US and European economies be affected, questions on how emerging market economies (EM) will be affected remain. There seems to be no simple or general answer to that, since exposure and economic structure vary significantly across EM countries.
With respect to Brazil, in particular, how deeply will its economy be affected? Is the Brazilian economy prepared to face the turbulent scenario ahead?
Undoubtedly, Brazil is more resistant to external shocks than in previous times. That can be credited to the external vulnerability reduction policy that resulted in a complete reversion of the net external debt position: Brazil moved from a 55.5% share of foreign currency linked debt to a creditor position in foreign currency of 28.0% of the total debt. In this sense, external shocks that previously depreciated the currency and increased public debt, worsening risk perception and feeding the Brazilian Real devaluation, nowadays result in Public Debt reduction as a percentage of GDP, thus becoming a stabilizing factor for the Brazilian economy.
In this article we use a set of macroeconomic indicators to show that Brazil is well prepared to face the new reality and, hence, is bound to absorb the shocks and adapt to the consequences of a global economic slowdown much better than in the past. External vulnerabilities were remarkably reduced, much has been done and the productive real sector is much stronger to bear the forthcoming cloudy days. It is also important to remember that, less than six months ago, market analysts were concerned about the fact that the economy could be overheated due the growing domestic demand.
The GDP growth1,2 achieved the 6.0% mark in the first semester of 2008, the best result since 2004. The higher than expected growth in the second quarter of the year was boosted by investments, which have beaten a 12 year record, and by the agricultural sector, which forecasts a track record for 2008 crops, reaching 143 million tons3. This result highlights some of the economical advantages of Brazil in face of the international scenario and shows that the country’s growth is currently driven by the domestic market. The Brazilian economy now benefits from years of stability and a suitable set of predictable macroeconomic policies.
The current economic growth cycle of the Brazilian economy is the longest since the beginning of the historical series, in 1996, lasting 20 quarters4 until now and with an accumulated expansion of 26.6% in the period. In this context, the objective of this article is to examine the extension and the intensity of the ongoing period of economic growth, emphasizing the dynamics of the domestic demand, especially regarding the investment path. In this sense, one should note that investment is far stronger in the current economic expansion cycle comparatively to previous ones, accumulating an expansion of 67.3% in the period (2003 III to 2008 II), thus consolidating the domestic demand as the main growth sustaining factor, in addition to the paths of credit, employment and real wage. It is evident that once the global recession unfolds, all countries will be affected, but because its particularities of exports diversification across countries and products, and its domestic market, Brazil it’s in a relative better position to go through this shaky period.
From the microeconomic point of view, Brazilian companies have improved a lot in the last years, regarding productivity, governance, generation of more qualified jobs and higher profitability. Well capitalized, the biggest Brazilian enterprises plan to maintain investment programs announced in 2008 despite the external conjuncture. Due either to the commitment with medium and long term contracts or to the great cash generation, the expectation of a relevant part of the industrial sector points to investment continuity even under a scenario of temporary, credit reduction.
In this sense, the optimistic perspectives of the domestic entrepreneurs impact positively on the continuity of the growing investment trend and consolidate the domestic demand as a crucial factor for the maintenance of the present economic expansion cycle. For the third consecutive year, the contribution of domestic demand is responsible, almost exclusively, for the economy growth. The analysis of the demand components keeps, hence, ratifying the importance of the domestic demand for the support of the economic activity growth process.
Brazilian GDP has been growing at increased rates in the last nine quarters, resulting in an average GDP growth of 4.5% in the last four years. Regarding the GDP growth in the last four quarters, one can highlight the Agriculture sector (7.0%), followed by Industry (5.5%) and Services (5.1%). Among the subsectors, it is worth mentioning the Insurance and Financial Intermediation (15.2%), Information Services (9.2%), Commerce (8.1%) and Construction (7.4%) sectors.
Despite the recent increase in the basic interest rate which now is at 13.75% p.y. in comparison to 11.25% in the beginning of the year, the 2008 growth prospects have not been influenced as market forecasts a 5.23%5 growth for this year.
When one compares the previous Brazilian economic performance with the current one, it is possible to observe that the international turbulence has had a much smaller impact on domestic growth as compared to previous experience. The market forecasts for 2009 and 2010 are of 3.00% and 4.00%, respectively, which is still higher than the 10 year average, even if smaller than 2007 and 2008 rates.
Even though the subprime crisis has shown to be more profound than imagined by analysts, market expectations for the 2008 GDP growth have been constantly increasing in the last two years. This indicates that market analysts tend to be conservative in their forecasts.
Economic Activity Indicators
Several indicators suggest that Brazilian growth is lead mostly by the domestic rather than the external market. The production capacity has been increasing over the years and investment is at its highest level in a decade. The investment rate has achieved 18.7% in the second quarter of the year, the best result since the first quarter of 2000, when it achieved 19.1%.
The Gross Fixed Capital Formation has achieved its peak since the beginning of the series in 1996, as well as the Apparent Machine Consumption Index, which measures the domestic consumption of machines. These data suggest that investments have followed the increase in the demand side, thus reducing the risks of future bottlenecks as the Plant Capacity Utilization indicates below.
When one looks at Capital Goods Production Growth Rate it is possible to clearly identify a level change in 2007. A growth rate of around 10% in previous years jumped to over 20%.
Credit achieved a 39.1% of GDP share in September compared to 28% in January 2006. This vigorous increase did not reflect in a higher default rate which, to the contrary, has been falling for over two years. This shows that there is still room for credit growth, especially when one compares Brazil to other countries. Government is especially concerned about this pace of growth - in this sense, the Central Bank monitors closely the sector and regularly conducts stress tests to check potential risks and balances.
It is undeniable that the increases in the credit rate together with higher GDP growth have stimulated consumption. The seasonal adjusted Retail Sales Volume Index shows that since 2004 general retail sales have been rising.
The conditions on the labor market are favorable, registering continuity of the reduction of the unemployment rate trend and the replacement of informal jobs by formal ones. In this scenario of higher formalization the course of increase of real earnings continues. The increase in the aggregate real wage, which is specially linked to the increase in occupation, shall continue in next months, as an important sustainability element for family consumption.
The higher GDP growth, in tandem with the acceleration of the investment rate and of the Gross Fixed Capital Formation, has had a large effect in employment. The unemployment rate has been falling consistently in the last three years, thus contributing to raise Central Government’s Revenues and boosting the domestic demand. The rate registered at October was the second lowest since the beginning of the series in 2002.
The fall in the unemployment rate was conjugated with an increase in formalization. In the first ten months of the year, 2.14 million jobs were created, which represented a new record for the series, 32.8% higher than the 2007 result. It is also important to highlight that, for the first time ever; over two million jobs were created in a single year.
Recently, a huge change in the social class structure was noted. The middle class (C) has become predominant. This was directly influenced by the higher economic growth as well as the formalization of the private sector, which helped to boost local demand.
The Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) can be regarded as an indicator of the level of international confidence in the Brazilian economy. In 2007, FDI amounted to R$34.6 billion, and the market forecasts point to R$35.0 billion and R$26.0 billion in 2008 and 2009 respectively, an extremely high amount when one considers the historical level and the crisis we are experiencing.
The confidence indexes (industrial and consumer) are at historically high levels. Probably, one of the main reasons for that is the good performance of the economy in recent years. This reflects future investment and consumption decisions and may indicate that the future growth will not be disrupted.
Both indexes decreased between April and October; nevertheless, the Consumer Confidence Index increased between July and September, remained stable in October and slightly decreased in November, showing that consumers are generally still confident.
Although the GDP future growth scenario is relatively comfortable, the Government has been conducting some actions to boost further the economic growth.
Until 2010, R$20 billion of tax exemptions6 are expected for the industrial sector. This will add to a series of other measures of financial, investment and export cost reductions, aiming at increasing external competitiveness and at setting the manufacture sector in a relevant position in the exports portfolio.
In addition to that, R$250 billion in investments, over the next three years, are projected to take place in 24 sectors, aiming at improving production capacity, technological innovation and modernization. Of this amount, R$210 billion will come from BNDES (Brazilian Development Bank) resources and from the budgets of the Development; Industry and Commerce, and Science and Technology Ministries. In addition to that, government will propose the accelerated depreciation of investments, reducing the taxes paid by companies.
One of the macroeconomic objectives of this policy is to increase the economy’s Investment Rate and the Gross Fixed Capital Formation from the current 15.5% to 21.0% of the GDP until 2010, an ambitious increase, which is considered crucial to make the sustained growth feasible over the years.
Compared to other countries, Brazil can be considered a relatively closed economy, with a trade to GDP ratio of around 22% in 2007. Considering that, one can say that the main impacts over Brazilian economy could derive possibly from the credit reduction due the international lack of liquidity instead of from a decrease in exports.
It is also important to highlight that the Government is carefully monitoring this turbulent scenario and will deliver its efforts to further the microeconomic agenda, which includes credit for the exports and a Tax Reform that is already being discussed at the Congress and is expected to be approved in the lower house soon.
Brazil has a solid financial system, less leveraged than developed countries and highly capitalized. Since 2004, the country has experienced a wave of Initial Public Offerings at BM&FBOVESPA stock exchange. Listed companies have raised over R$ 110 billion in public offerings in 2007 and 2008 and are ready to go on with their projects once the external outlook improves.
Additionally, Brazil presents a high level of political and social stability. After five well succeeded presidential elections, it’s clear that Brazil has a consolidated democracy. The country has a track record of policy continuity through political transitions having consistently achieved its primary surplus target, as well as the inflation target, representing one of the few countries that will meet the inflation target for 2008.
Recently, the Central Bank has taken a series of measures to increase liquidity both in dollars, by selling currency in the spot market, among other measures, and in domestic currency, by releasing part of the reserve requirements. Until the end of October R$54.60 billion on reserve requirement have been released and, potentially, there are almost R$100 billion to be released soon. These measures are important for the maintenance of the economic growth, as the credit has reduced worldwide.
In conclusion, one can say that the Brazilian economy is more prepared to face turbulent times and that the impact of the subprime crisis over Brazil will be limited, especially when compared to previous volatile periods. Economic activity indicators, such as Investment Rate, Gross Fixed Capital Formation and Plant Capacity Utilization indicate that the real economy has not been significantly affected by the subprime crisis. This can be confirmed by the increasing domestic demand, which is result of a higher employment rate, especially in the formal sector, in addition to a historically high credit level.
Central banks around the world have undertaken a number of measures to forestall deflation and lift the global economy out of economic slump and credit crisis. Aside from traditional monetary policy tools such as official interest rate cuts and relaxations in reserve requirements, central banks have resorted to alternative unconventional tools. Quantitative easing has begun in the epicenters of the credit crisis, U.S. and Europe, who may be joined by other central banks as they too head towards zero interest rates in leaps and bounds (Sweden moved the most in the developed world by 175bp in one shot). With monetary policy transmission broken by the unwillingness of the private sector to lend or borrow, central banks have had to scurry for alternatives to rate cutting in order to restore markets. They set up an alphabet soup of liquidity facilities that lend funds or purchase assets, offered guarantees on deposits and loans, and established currency swap lines, in addition to a host of fiscal stimulus packages announced by governments. Check out “Policy Responses to the Global Credit Crisis”
So are the pieces now in place to prevent global stag-deflation? It is too soon to tell. So far, money market and commercial paper markets have shown tentative signs of easing. But elsewhere in the private sector credit market, tensions remain as asset prices move shambolically and de-leveraging drags on among households, banks and businesses. Though money supply has grown, the velocity of money has slowed despite the flood of liquidity from central banks and official interest rates effectively at or near zero. In other words, we have fallen into a liquidity trap. Such a blow to consumer demand makes deflation in 2009 a real possibility.
Leading the global effort against the credit crisis/recession/deflation are the Federal Reserve and the ECB. Since the start of the crisis, the Fed and ECB have cut a cumulative 425bp and 175bp, respectively. Other central banks in both the developing and developed world have been more aggressive in cutting rates but they started from a higher base or began easing late. In addition to rate cuts, the Fed and ECB have used more targeted measures, setting up new liquidity facilities, asset purchasing programs and currency swap lines, as well as bailing out systemically critical firms and broadening the range of collateral and extending the term of funds lent out at special facilities. Several new programs have been added to the Fed's toolbox since the credit crisis began in August 2007, such as TALF, AMLF, MMIFF, CPFF, TSLF, PDCF, TAF. In October, the Fed began paying interest on reserves deposited at the Fed to allow for essentially limitless balance sheet growth. At the same time, the ECB began offering unlimited cash at its weekly auctions. As a result, the Fed and ECB's balance sheets have exploded.
Despite liquidity raining down on the financial system from the Fed and ECB, the financial fires have yet to be extinguished. Yes, money market rates are off their peaks and the commercial paper marketcontraction has bottomed. But a lack of confidence among lenders in potential borrowers (and a lack of confidence among potential borrowers given the profit or income outlook) and falling asset valuations has stymied significant easing in market interest rates, such as for mortgages and car loans. Rate cuts and quantitative easing notwithstanding, it seems the threat of a liquidity trap is looming on the U.S. (and the EMU). Central banks still have ammo left to shoot their way out of the trap and forestall deflation. One option is debt monetization: inflating away the public debt from sharp fiscal expansion to stimulate the economy. Bernanke recently brought up the option of Federal Reserve purchases of longer-term Treasuries and agency debt. Check out: “Impact of Fed Rate Cuts and Quantitative Easing” and “Operation Twist: Then and Now”
In the U.S., private demand continues to fall sharply as does the string of awful economic and financial news. The latest employment report surprised on the negative side (with the largest payroll decline since 1974) and job losses are bound to keep mounting. U.S. GDP is expected to shrink 4% or more in Q4 2008 and the contraction is expected to continue throughout 2009. Orthodox and unorthodox monetary policy measures are certainly needed but they have to be accompanied by a significant stimulus on the fiscal side to support aggregate demand. The great retrenchment of the private sector balance is already under way and the new U.S. administration is getting ready to make the largest investment in infrastructure of the last 50 years. The details of the size and content of the stimulus package are not available yet. However, there seems to be a general consensus that a package of $300-$400bn dollars is a lower bound to keep the economy moving,.
Let’s make some back of the envelope computations. The depreciation of the U.S. stock of housing goods brings serious negative wealth effects. According to our computations a 30% fall in home prices peak to trough (and U.S. home prices might very well fall more than that) could result in a negative wealth effect that could subtract up to $400-$500bn from private consumption over time. In the same fashion, a painful rebalancing process that would bring to U.S. saving rates back to the levels of a decade ago (around 6%) would be compatible with a decline in consumption of almost $1 trillion.
It is welcome news that the stimulus package will most likely be in the $500-700bn range and that it will target productive investment in infrastructure, public services and green technology. However, a fiscal stimulus will not prevent a severe recession at this point – the U.S. economy is officially already in recession since Q4 2007 – but will make the recession shorter and less severe than it would otherwise have been.
The EU Commission’s ‘recovery plan’ to be adopted during the EU summit on December 11-12 envisages a fiscal stimulus of around 1.5% of EU GDP or €200bn (approx $260bn). Most of the money will be drawn from national budgets, with EU countries asked to contribute €170bn (approx $221bn) or 1.2% of the EU's GDP. The rest – around €30bn (approx $39bn) or 0.3% of GDP – would come from the EU's own budget and the European Investment Bank (EIB). While some large member states such as the UK and France would like to see a larger common effort to maximize the economic impact and reduce cross-border leaks, Germany looks back at 10 years of hard structural adjustment and highlights the need for each country to keep its own house in order. The same dynamic is also blocking aCommon European Bond , which was recently rejected by ECB president Trichet.
Commentators point out that even from a purely domestic perspective, a strong fiscal stimulus is exactly the right medicine for Germany that slipped into recession in Q3 alongside its European partners. Compare the different fiscal packages in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and the UK.
The United Kingdom is experiencing a large-scale slowdown similar or even worse than the U.S. economy with a deep correction in the housing sector and clear signs of contraction in demand. UK's GDP growth will likely slow towards 1% in 2008 and is expected to contract in 2009. Next year consumption and business investment are expected to drop as the impact of the credit crunch deepens. The government is preparing to pump about £39bn (approx $58bn) into three of the country’s largest banks in a broad-based recapitalization that could see the UK government end up with controlling stakes in RBS and HBOS. The government has been taking major steps to inject liquidity into the system, raising the availability of the Special Liquidity Scheme (SLS) to at least £200bn (approx $296bn) and guaranteeing the issuance of short and medium term debt by banks. The Bank of England (BoE) cut the benchmark interest rate 100 bps to 2.0% on December 4th, the lowest since 1951, after unexpectedly slashing rates by 150 bps early in November, in the wake of what was seen by the central bank “the most serious economic disruption for almost a century”. A fiscal stimulus of £20bn (approx $30b or 1% of GDP) was recently unveiled and a new fiscal rule to improve the cyclically-adjusted level of borrowing every year. Borrowing would rise to £78bn ($115bn) this year and then £118bn ($175bn) in 2009-10 with public sector net debt surging above the current limit of 40% of national income this year, reaching 57% by 2013-14. Part of the spending would be found through £5bn ($7.4bn) in efficiency savings in 2010-11while public spending would be squeezed after 2011 when the growth rate of spending after inflation would be cut from 1.9% a year to 1.2% a year. In addition , value-added tax will be cut from December 1 from 17.5% to 15% until the end of 2009, to make goods and services cheaper and encourage growth, in a move that Mr. Darling described as “a measure to help everyone and deliver a much need injection into the economy.”
After some reluctance, Canada too seems to be joining the fiscal stimulus club despite a recent fiscal statement that planned to cut spending and nearly triggered the downfall of the government before asuspension was called till early January. Even without additional spending, lower revenue was already likely to push Canada into a fiscal deficit position, its first in a decade, leading some to worry about a return to an era of structural deficits. Yet with Canada clearly in recessionary territory- despite outgrowing the rest of the G10 in Q3 - a fiscal stimulus seems appropriate to support its faltering domestic demand in the face of deteriorating terms of trade. The Bank of Canada is doing what it can to limit the impact of the recession on the real economy and to meet its primary goal of the 2% core inflation target. It cut interest rates by a higher than expected 75bp yesterday to 1.5%, taking cumulative stimulus to 300bps and is expected to cut a further 50bp at its next meeting in Jan. 2009. It has also continued toinject liquidity through purchase and resale agreements. Yet, Canadian dollar depreciation may limits Canada’s deflationary risk.
Stag-deflation accurately describes where Japan is heading. In Q3, Japan officially entered recession and many analysts do not foresee a recovery in growth until at least 2010. Meanwhile, deflation is rearing its ugly head once again, as detailed in a recent RGE note by Mary Stokes, although there is some disagreement over how short-lived it will be this time around.
So how do policymakers address this dangerous cycle of falling prices and economic stagnation? This is, of course, the big question worldwide. In Japan’s case, the Bank of Japan has almost no firepower left with the benchmark interest rate already at 0.3% (the lowest in the industrialized world). Meanwhile, Japan has two fiscal stimulus packages on the table, but it’s unclear how much of a contribution they will make in getting the economy back on a growth track. Reaching further into the policy option toolbox, some analysts are now discussing a return to quantitative easing and whether such a move would improve Japan’s economic prospects.
Almost all Asia and Pacific central banks have now cut policy rates (Philippines and Pakistan are two exceptions) and used other monetary policy measures to contain the liquidity squeeze in credit markets. With exports and relatively weak domestic demand deteriorating, concerns about significant growthslowdown (and contraction in countries like South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong) are pushing Asia to join the global trend of loosening monetary policy and providing fiscal stimulus, quite aggressively in some countries now that commodity-led inflation is easing. China and India have been particularly aggressive. Some Asian countries are perhaps less able to engage in aggressive fiscal and monetary stimulus, either because they run fiscal deficits or they continue to have elevated inflation.
China’s monetary easing is well under way. Last week it cut interest rates by 108bps (it always moves in a multiple of 9), the most in 11 years, taking the 1 year lending rate to 5.58% and the deposit rate to 2.52%. It has also reduced the reserve requirement, reduced its sterilization of the monetary supply by cutting the sale of treasury bills and perhaps most significantly removed all lending curbs which had been deployed to counter overheating and inflation earlier this year. China is also beginning to roll out afiscal stimulus to support growth. Its heralded $586 billion package though repackages other previous spending and it may fail to offset the weakness in the housing and construction sector especially if exports contract. However, approval of previously frozen projects may speed the spending roll out even if it rewards well-connected regions, providing some support for commodity demand. Despite the inclusion of spending on pensions etc, it is uncertain how much Chinese fiscal stimulus and associated tax policy changes like the introduction of a value added tax will succeed in rebalancing growth away from investment.
Last week India announced a $4bn fiscal package including 200 bn rupees in additional spending, a value-added tax cut export credits for textile, leather and jewelry sectors and sales tax refunds as well as tax-free bonds for infrastructure. However, it may come at the cost of increasing India’s fiscal deficit. The RBI has lowered the repo rate 250 bps since October, made the first cuts in the reverse repo rate since 2003 and eased credit and conditions for restructuring loans directed towards SMEs, corporate sector and housing sector. Both India and China are planning fuel price reductions which may provide some boost to consumers while still providing profit margins for refiners.
The swift decline in the price of crude oil – now well below the break even point for most oil exporting economies – may lead to some reduction in spending or a slowing trajectory of spending growth in 2009. GCC countries, as well as Libya and Algeria may be best placed to maintain current spending patterns or substitute for private flows, given their accumulated savings even if some of these stockpiles haveshrunk along with global equities. Countries like Nigeria, Venezuela, Iran and Russia – may be less able to do so and could see sharp declines in growth, particularly with further oil production cuts in the works. GCC countries have also been easing monetary policy (along with the Fed) and using a range of tools to inject liquidity in the face of elevated interbank rates. Yet, monetary and fiscal measures may only go so far in supporting growth as both hydrocarbon and non-hydrocarbon output is likely to slow sharply. Meanwhile other MENA countries seem to be in a position to provide countercyclical fiscal policy.
Russian policy makers have been quick, if not necessarily always coordinated, in their response to slowing growth and sharp capital outflows. Russian PM Putin recently suggested additional fiscal stimulus measures including cuts in corporate taxes, a hike in unemployment benefits and pensions as well as more defense and construction spending. By some accounts, these measures take Russian government spending on economic and financial stabilization to as much as $400 billion or 25% of GDP and may take the budget deficit to well over 2% of GDP next year. With inflation still elevated and policy rates continuing to be very negative in real terms, few monetary measures are available, particularly as Russia has increased interest rates to discourage deposit outflows. With Russia’s terms of trade eroding – the current account could shift into deficit as soon as this quarter, and domestic demand beginning to falter, growth could slow very sharply from the 6.2% it marked in Q308 and a contraction is not out of the question in 2009 if oil prices remain at current levels, as detailed in recent notes by Nouriel Roubini and Rachel Ziemba. Russian attempts to allow only slow depreciation of the rouble contributed to the loss of 25% of its $600 billion in foreign exchange reserves since August and outflows from the domestic banking system – a depletion that led S&P to downgrade the country to BBB on Monday. Russia may need to follow the Ukrainian example and allow a sharper devaluation.
What economic worries might be keeping Eastern European policymakers up at night? Right now, stagnation – rather than stag-deflation – seems to be the pressing concern. Economic growth rates in Central Europe are slowing, though the sharpness of the slowdowns has varied.
Hungary – the economic laggard of the group, which was forced to turn to the IMF and EU for a $25 billion rescue package in late October – is seen contracting in 2009. Meanwhile, Poland, the Czech Republicand Slovakia are expected to experience positive, albeit sluggish growth.
Easing inflation has given central banks in Central Europe room to maneuver, enabling them to start cutting rates to give their slowing economies a boost. Going forward, analysts see more rate cuts in the pipeline. Nevertheless, monetary policy easing is limited in countries with heavy foreign currency-denominated lending, like Hungary or Romania, where a weakening local currency could potentially trigger defaults, thereby impacting financial stability.
As for fiscal policy, Central European policymakers may be reticent to undertake expansive stimulus packages as such moves could further weigh on their current-account deficits and undermine investor confidence. And in stark contrast to expansionary fiscal policy elsewhere, Hungary is engaging in fiscal tightening in conjunction with its IMF agreement.
Exceptions to the rule? Unlike Central Europe’s slowing economies, the so-called gravity defiersBulgaria and Romania continued to post envy-inducing growth rates of 7.1% and 9.3% in Q2. Nevertheless, these growth rates seem unsustainable given the accompanying imbalances – double-digit current-account deficits and high inflation. Consequently, this could be a case of ‘the higher they rise, the harder they fall’ where Bulgaria and Romania not only experience slower growth like much of Central Europe, but could potentially face economic crises.
The Baltic states – the sick men of Eastern Europe – are dealing with a particularly nasty case of stagflation. Latvia and Estonia are now officially in recessions, and Lithuania could soon join them. When it comes to options for dealing with the painful economic adjustments in progress, Baltic policymakers’ hands are tied. That’s because all of them have fixed exchange rates to the euro and therefore no independent monetary policy. Meanwhile, Baltic governments’ ability to loosen fiscal policy to support growth is limited by massive imbalances.
Among the Latin American countries, the prospects of a slowdown are also widespread, although the intensity of the deceleration and the seriousness of the crises is in many ways distinct within the region.Mexico is definitely on the top of the list of those most affected by the global slowdown with trade flowslargely dependent on the U.S. economy but should also be seen at the front line of the region’s defense against the contraction. Despite the challenging credit crunch and the sharp fall in oil prices, which put adent in fiscal revenues, Mexico has a much better fiscal situation to deal with a US recession compared to previous episodes. The government has approved a budget for 2009 in which fiscal spending is set to grow by 5% and, to stimulate the economy, the government plans to spend an incremental US$7.3bn or 0.7% of GDP in 2009, 72% of which is earmarked for higher infrastructure spending, thus running a consolidated public sector deficit next year for the first time since 2005. In Brazil, a provisional measure bill eased constrains for two public banks to acquire capital of private financial institutions. It also creates an investment bank to acquire capital not just in the financial, but other sectors as well. The BCB also put in place currency swap lines with other international central banks, in a similar way as the Central bank of Mexico. The Chilean government is a very good example of prudent fiscal conduct and the government has now enough ammunition to act counter-cyclically despite the sharp fall in copper prices and tax revenues from a fading economy. In Peru, the government recently announced it will spend as much as USD 3.2bn next year on infrastructural projects to bolster economic growth. Going into the more extreme cases, we should mention that Ecuador is considering a default on its external debt and the market is also worried about Argentina and Venezuela.
O CRESCIMENTO da economia brasileira nos primeiros nove meses de 2008 foi realmente extraordinário. Não só pelo número quase chinês do aumento do PIB -6,8% ao ano- mas, também, por sua qualidade. O investimento privado expandiu-se em quase 20% em um ano, mostrando de forma clara o tipo de resposta que o empresário pode dar a um ciclo consistente de crescimento econômico.
Não fosse a chegada brusca da crise internacional em outubro e novembro, os números fechados para o ano poderiam fazer parte de um quadro a ser exibido com orgulho. Nome sugerido para essa pintura poderia ser algo na linha de "Como a tartaruga virou uma lebre".
Essa mudança radical em relação ao passado recente pode ser explicada por dois grupos de fatores. O primeiro, de natureza estrutural, foi construído ao longo da segunda metade dos anos 90 com reformas e mudanças de valores da sociedade, como a repulsa à inflação institucionalizada e o descontrole fiscal. Mas, para explicar o sucesso brasileiro dos últimos anos, temos que reconhecer os efeitos do ciclo de crescimento que ocorreu no mundo a partir de 2003. Se o primeiro grupo de fatores criou as condições necessárias para a aceleração de nosso crescimento, o ciclo de expansão fora de nossas fronteiras representou a condição suficiente para chegarmos ao PIB dos primeiros nove meses de 2008.
Ora, se isso é verdade, a mudança radical no ciclo econômico mundial que estamos vivendo -e vamos viver por mais dois anos- tem que ser incorporada em nossas expectativas. Vale aqui uma observação que ouvi de um atento analista de mercado: "Vento que empurra o barco para um lado, quando muda de direção, empurra também para o outro".
Palavras sábias, apesar de sua aparente falta de profundidade. Traduzindo essa imagem para o caso de nossa economia: as cotações das principais commodities exportadas pelo Brasil voltaram hoje aos preços de 2003.
Outro vento forte que estufou as velas do barco Brasil durante os últimos anos -a entrada de bilhões de dólares em investimentos e créditos ao setor privado- também mudou em 180 nos últimos meses. Hoje, temos saídas expressivas desses recursos, e a rolagem da dívida externa privada pode ser muito baixa nos próximos meses. Além da pressão sobre o real, esse movimento implica uma redução expressiva da disponibilidade de crédito para as empresas brasileiras. Mesmo os grandes nomes, como a Petrobras, estão sendo obrigados a recorrer a empréstimos em reais no sistema bancário, pressionando as taxas para cima e expulsando os tomadores de maior risco. A taxa de juros, para as empresas médias e pequenas, é hoje superior a 5% ao mês. E não culpem a taxa Selic por isso.
Diante desses obstáculos externos e sobre os quais o governo Lula não tem nenhuma influência, não existe outra saída senão moderar de forma importante a taxa de crescimento da economia. Boa parte desse recuo já está sendo provocada pelos agentes econômicos privados, que reagem de forma racional às mudanças na direção do vento externo. Empresas e consumidores já entenderam os novos tempos e tomam as decisões rapidamente. Falta agora o governo aceitar os tempos menos favoráveis e agir de forma consistente e responsável para tornar menos dolorida a mudança na velocidade de crescimento. Se não fizer isso, ou se errar a mão, o ano de 2009 poderá ser bem mais difícil e incerto do que o necessário.
Não é de hoje que insisto em demonstrar que a economia brasileira, para funcionar normalmente, não precisa da overdose de juros a que está submetida. Há mais de uma década praticamos as maiores taxas de juros do planeta, desde que passamos a financiar a dívida pública com papéis de curtíssimo prazo e sujeitos à correção monetária. Em lugar de defender a utilização de uma política fiscal austera, aceitamos conviver com uma política monetária que resultou em altos custos para a sociedade produtiva e em gordos lucros para a comunidade financeira internacional. Em todo o período em que fomos campeões de taxas de juros, o Brasil tornou-se o único peru com farofa a freqüentar a mesa dos especuladores mundiais fora do Dia de Ação de Graças.
Durante esses anos, nem o Banco Central teve a coragem de fazer o que devia nem os governos adotaram as políticas fiscais que nos libertariam da armadilha. Não está em questão nem a autonomia nem o sistema de metas de inflação. A autonomia dos bancos centrais é útil e necessária, pois foi a forma encontrada de restringir os exageros dos poderes incumbentes quando não resistem à tentação de usar a moeda para fazer demagogia em períodos eleitorais.
É o mecanismo de financiamento da dívida pública que tem que ser corrigido. E isso começa pelo corte das taxas de juro. Em 2008, além de sustentarmos o nível mais alto dos juros na escala mundial, ainda aceitamos que se fizesse o maior aumento de taxas de juro do planeta durante o processo de crescimento da crise financeira. E o nosso Banco Central se "orgulha" de ter sido um dos raros a subir as taxas nesses últimos oito meses, quando o resto do mundo as reduzia!
A reunião do Copom desta quarta-feira manteve a Selic em 13,75%, o que significa uma taxa real de juros de 8% ao ano. Não é a Selic que comanda a economia e sim a taxa de juros estabelecida pelo mercado (a swap 360) que está abaixo da taxa básica. Uma pequena redução da Selic não agrediria a boa técnica e daria um sinal capaz de influenciar psicologicamente os consumidores, cuja atitude será fundamental para a superação das dificuldades nos próximos meses.
Do alto de sua "sabedoria", porém, o nosso Banco Central dirá que não é de sua alçada demonstrar sensibilidade diante de problemas "secundários" tais como a conservação dos empregos no melhor nível possível durante o período de dificuldades. Soberanamente, contudo, concede em transmitir aos mortais comuns que a decisão contém implícita um viés "informal" de baixa, quem sabe na próxima reunião, em janeiro.
Na medida em que finalmente retomarmos o processo de redução dos juros, vamos tornar disponíveis para investir no crescimento da economia os recursos que hoje servem à dívida: estamos gastando de 7% a 8% do PIB com juros, para rolar uma dívida em torno de 40% do Produto, enquanto países cuja dívida pública chega a 140% do PIB, não gastam mais de 4% para servi-la! Estou convencido que temos margem para baixar em 2% ou 3% do PIB os gastos com o serviço da dívida pública. E mais convencido ainda que não existem argumentos sólidos para retardar o início desse processo.
Passadas as eleições municipais, parte das atenções nacionais ainda estão voltadas para o desenrolar da maior crise financeira internacional de todos os tempos, algo de substancial relevância. Flutuações de curto prazo à parte, aspectos mais estruturais, como inovação tecnológica, não devem sair da agenda de países e empresas.
Quando observamos as invenções que moldaram o cotidiano do Século XX nos países desenvolvidos, encontramos coisas que hoje são familiares em todo o mundo, como o aspirador de pó (patenteado em 1901), a máquina de lavar elétrica (1909), o zíper (1914), o supermercado self-service (1916) e o semáforo (1922). E coisas que ainda não usamos, mas que já foram inventadas e patenteadas e que podem vir a fazer parte do nosso cotidiano, como os materiais programáveis (1995). Sem o devido esforço de inovação e os respectivos gastos em pesquisa e desenvolvimento (P&D), e sem os mecanismos de apropriabilidade dos resultados destes gastos, talvez não tivéssemos nenhum destes produtos ou processos.
A análise do esforço e da difusão tecnológica nos países em desenvolvimento desde os anos 1990, feita pelo Banco Mundial em seu relatório de 2008, mostra que tecnologia é variável fundamental na sustentabilidade do crescimento e na redução da pobreza. Nos últimos 20 anos, esta variável vem crescendo mais rapidamente nos países de baixa e média renda do que nos de alta renda, permitindo aproximação tecnológica (catch-up) entre estes países, apesar da distância manter-se significativa.
A redução do hiato tecnológico está mais associada à adoção de tecnologias mais antigas, como eletricidade e telefonia fixa, do que à adoção de tecnologias mais modernas, como telefonia móvel, computadores e internet. A adoção de tecnologias mais modernas é limitada pela qualificação da mão de obra. Algumas tecnologias passaram a ser adotadas, ou mais intensamente utilizadas, devido a mudanças regulatórias. Nos países em que o Estado deixou de ser monopolista na oferta de muitos bens e serviços e permitiu a participação de empresas privadas em um ambiente competitivo, a intensidade tecnológica aumentou.
A difusão tecnológica entre os países, porém, é tradicionalmente lenta. E, a despeito de algumas firmas serem mais sofisticadas tecnologicamente, a maioria não é. Além disso, a maior parte das empresas e da população vive em um ambiente de baixa tecnologia, apesar de não raro encontrar nos países de baixa e média renda cidades tecnologicamente muito sofisticadas e empresas operando em escala mundial.
O último Relatório sobre a Competitividade Global recentemente divulgado pelo Fórum Econômico Mundial considerou em sua análise as instituições dos países, inovação, infra-estrutura, sofisticação dos negócios, tamanho do mercado, eficiência do mercado de trabalho, entre outras variáveis.
Em uma lista de 134 países, o Brasil ficou no 64º lugar. Esta posição o coloca como o último dos Brics - a China ficou com o 33º lugar, a Índia com o 53º e a Rússia com o 54º -; atrás dos três países da América do Norte; da maioria dos países europeus; de várias ex-repúblicas socialistas, como Estônia e República Tcheca; de países do Oriente Médio, como Quatar e Arábia Saudita; e de alguns países da América Latina, como Chile e Porto Rico.
Esta mesma posição deu ao Brasil a melhor colocação entre os membros do Mercosul - o Uruguai ficou com o 78º lugar, a Argentina com o 91º e o Paraguai com o 127º -; e o deixou à frente de alguns vizinhos sul-americanos, como Colômbia, Equador, Venezuela e Bolívia; e de vários países africanos, como Marrocos e Namíbia.
No quesito inovação em particular, a pontuação mínima é 1 e a máxima é 7, no agregado e nos subitens. O Brasil teve nota geral 3,5 no quesito inovação, o que lhe garantiu o 43º lugar neste item. Nos subitens, capacidade de inovar, nota 4 e 27º lugar; qualidade das instituições de pesquisa científica, 4,3 e 43º lugar; gastos das empresas com P&D 3,9 e 31º lugar; cooperação universidade-empresa, 3,6 e 50º lugar; medidas do governo para garantir avanço nos produtos técnicos, 3,4 e 84º lugar; disponibilidade de engenheiros e cientistas 4,4 e 57º lugar; e em patentes o 58º lugar.
Ou seja, no estudo liderado pelo Fórum Econômico Mundial, o Brasil teve notas próximas da média no geral e nos subitens que compõem a avaliação sobre inovação, e classificações baixas - o que faz sentido, pois o inovador líder está sempre muito acima da média.
Estudos recentes feitos por diversas equipes de pesquisadores mostram que, independentemente da metodologia, o Brasil está muito aquém de adquirir um patamar tecnológico elevado, a despeito de esforços nacionais isolados e alguns bem-sucedidos. Logo, o país também se priva de usufruir dos benefícios sócio-econômicos de longo prazo decorrentes do desenvolvimento propiciado pela inovação.
Ter o longo prazo em perspectiva é algo fundamental, particularmente em momentos de turbulência, onde o processo de destruição criadora abre espaço para invenções e reinvenções - desde que haja inovação em relação ao passado pré-crise.
A China está agindo rápido. "O Partido Comunista fez as contas e viu que parte da produção de brinquedos e têxteis era de baixo valor agregado, paga salários muito baixos e é muito poluidora. Então, os incentivos a essas áreas estão desaparecendo, a China quer outro tipo de indústria", disse à Folha de S. Paulo no final de outubro o economista Andy Rothman, macroestrategista para a China do banco de investimentos CLSA, em Xangai. "É a terceira onda de reformas econômicas desde 1978, que começa agora. Haverá alguns setores sacrificados, mas a longo prazo faz sentido".
O Brasil demorou muito para ter certo domínio das técnicas da eletro-metal-mecânica, a tecnologia do início do Século XX. Ainda há deficiências na adoção de tecnologias consolidadas, como microeletrônica, e muito a fazer para nos inserirmos no paradigma que se consolida: bio e nano tecnologias.
Resta saber se o Brasil vai agir rápido para aproveitar as oportunidades de longo prazo geradas por esta crise de curto prazo.
O país poderá entrar em recessão, definida tecnicamente como variação negativa do Produto Interno Bruto (PIB), por dois trimestres consecutivos, em comparação ao trimestre imediatamente anterior.
A expectativa do governo é que haja uma retração da economia no último trimestre deste ano e no primeiro trimestre de 2009. Este é um conceito. Outra metodologia opta por comparar o nível de atividade de cada trimestre em relação ao mesmo período do ano anterior. É se referindo a esse segundo conceito que o ministro da Fazenda, Guido Mantega, projeta um crescimento de 3% a 3,5% para o período outubro-dezembro e de 5% a 5,5% este ano. Isso corresponde a uma queda de 1% do PIB no último trimestre do ano, se a avaliação for feita pelo primeiro critério, ou seja, em relação ao terceiro trimestre deste ano.
A curva que o Ministério da Fazenda desenha para o PIB do ano que vem é de uma variação negativa nos três primeiros meses, estabilização no segundo trimestre e retomada do crescimento no segundo semestre, fechando o exercício em algo próximo a 4%. É óbvio que isso dependerá do que vai ocorrer com o resto do mundo.
Tudo o que o governo está fazendo, porém, é para evitar que haja recessão seja lá em que conceito for. O pacote de medidas de ontem - suficiente para sustentar cerca de 0,3% de crescimento - tem esse objetivo, ao incentivar o consumo.
Segundo o secretário de Política Econômica, Nelson Barbosa, os dados preliminares de novembro ainda revelam desaceleração da economia e os de dezembro são contraditórios. É nesse terreno de incertezas que o governo se move e procurou, ontem, com a reunião do presidente com os empresários, arrancar desses o compromisso de aguentar firmes sem demitir trabalhadores, pois a crise será de curta duração. "Se fizermos o que for necessário e vocês confiarem, em três a quatro meses o crescimento econômico recomeça e todos sairemos bem", acredita o ministro.
Barbosa considera que as políticas anticíclicas do governo vão sustentar o crescimento de 2009. O Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento (PAC), que este ano terá 1% do PIB de investimentos efetivamente pagos, equivalente a R$ 28 bilhões, em 2009 terá que assegurar 1,2% do PIB de investimentos pagos, R$ 6 bilhões a mais. A Petrobras está reavaliando seu programa de investimento que deverá saltar de 1,6% do PIB para 1,9% do PIB.
O problema, agora, com as medidas anunciadas e outras que poderão vir, é assegurar o consumo, para que as empresas vendam sua produção e mantenham seus empregados. Na reunião com os empresários, o ministro Guido Mantega disse por mais de uma vez que "tem bala na agulha" para manter um crescimento de 4% em 2009. "Eu farei o que for necessário", sublinhou o ministro.
Os empresários se queixaram da decisão do Copom que, na quarta-feira, manteve inalterada a taxa básica de juros em 13,75%, com sinalização de que poderá iniciar uma trajetória de queda em janeiro.
Mantega comentou, em almoço com jornalistas: " O presidente decidiu que o Banco Central tem autonomia relativa e isso pode trazer alguns inconvenientes em alguns momentos mas, no geral, traz dividendos porque retira a interferência política. Ele (o presidente Lula) tomou essa decisão. Se certa ou errada, não compete a mim julgar." De qualquer forma, lembrou, o Copom terá que responder por suas decisões. Ele, da parte que lhe cabe, que é a fiscal e tributária, está tomando as providências, conforme assinalou, acrescentando: "Tem que baixar o custo do financeiro."
Guido Mantega acenou com a perspectiva de mais medidas expansionistas. Reiterou que, embora as iniciativas de ontem não tenham contemplado esta questão, poderá haver mais liberação de depósitos compulsórios. Até agora já foram liberados R$ 94 bilhões e há mais outra leva de R$ 90 bilhões em compulsórios remunerados no Banco Central que poderá ser usada para irrigar o crédito.
Na área do trabalho e do emprego, grande preocupação do presidente Lula, também pode vir algum alívio. O ministro não gosta da alternativa colocada pelas centrais sindicais, de aumentar de cinco para dez meses o pagamento do seguro-desemprego de quem for despedido.
Essa é uma conta que cresceu bastante nos dois últimos anos - quanto maior o emprego, maior a rotatividade e, portanto, o desemprego, além dos sucessivos aumentos reais concedidos ao salário mínimo nos últimos anos, que são a referência do seguro. Guido Mantega prefere imaginar outras saídas, como redução da jornada de trabalho, por exemplo. A flexibilização trabalhista é um pedido dos empresários para manter empregos.
A despeito de todas as ações que vem anunciando - até agora centradas na garantia de liquidez bancária e na tentativa de desobstrução do crédito - o governo sabe que o mundo mudou para pior e o patamar de crescimento da economia brasileira terá que se adequar a esta nova realidade, onde todos estão mais pobres.
"Estamos, agora, na segunda fase: a de ver qual é o novo ritmo de crescimento do PIB", comentou Barbosa. Sair de um crescimento de produção de 6,8% (até setembro) para 4% vai representar uma desaceleração substancial, assinalou o secretário, que incorpora entre suas expectativas uma pequena piora do déficit em conta corrente em 2009, que pode chegar a uns US$ 35 bilhões em 2009 (a última previsão do Banco Central menciona US$ 33,1 bilhões). O governo não vê problema num déficit dessa magnitude, desde que não haja imprevistos na conta de capitais, que é a grande incógnita do balanço de pagamentos em 2009.
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