Currencies from Mexico, Brazil Lead Emerging Peers Lower

(Bloomberg) -- The dollar’s resurgence sent Latin American assets into a tailspin with the Brazilian real and Mexico peso leading developing-world currency declines.

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The emerging-market currency gauge dropped near the lowest in two months as traders flocked to the safety of the greenback ahead of key data releases in the US this week that may provide clues on the path of interest rates in the world’s largest economy. The Chilean and Colombian pesos also took beatings, while an index for the region stocks sank.

Uncertainty across the countries has led investors to ditch the currencies, which had drawn interest in the months prior amid relative stability and high interest rates.

The region went from “from most loved to most hated, that’s what crowded positioning and lower liquidity will do to you,” said Olga Yangol, the head of emerging-market strategy and research at Credit Agricole in New York. “I expect weakness going forward.”

Heavy positioning, deteriorating fiscal situations across the region and a resilient greenback is bound to weigh down the assets, she said.

The latest example of just how difficult the situation has become in Latin America came Wednesday from Bolivia, where the presidential palace was stormed in an apparent coup attempt. The bonds dipped, according to indicative pricing compiled by Bloomberg.

Bolivia Presidential Palace Stormed in Apparent Coup Attempt

Brazilian swap rates ended the day lower, after whipsawing despite a lower-than-expected inflation print, signaling traders are betting President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s increased spending will force the central bank to hike rates.

Investors will be on the lookout for Mexico’s central bank rate decision this week, the first one since the leftist party scored a majority in congress and another presidential term. They’ll turn to Colombia next, where policymakers are expected to keep easing amid President Gustavo Petro’s spending cuts.

“During the last few weeks, domestic politics and policy sucked all the air out the room in Latin America,” Alejo Czerwonko, chief investment officer Emerging Markets Americas at UBS Global Wealth Management, said in a note.

With no Fed speakers scheduled Wednesday, US inflation data Friday and weekly employment figures the day before will be in focus.

Also propelling the dollar is policymakers’ divergence with global peers from Europe to Canada, where easing campaigns are underway.

“The USD will remain stronger for longer,” Deutsche Bank’s Alan Ruskin wrote in a note Tuesday, adding the firm favors currencies from Chile, Brazil and India. “We have likely passed the cyclical nadir for short-term volatility.”

European politics is also spooking risk takers. Marine Le Pen’s National Rally is polling in first place for the parliamentary elections that begin Sunday in France, fueling anxiety among investors that’s also affecting the EU’s east. The Polish zloty and Czech koruna also underperformed.

“Global conditions for Central and Eastern Europe and the entire emerging-markets space deteriorated again yesterday, worsening the overall picture,” strategists at ING Bank wrote in a note.

Bonds from Nigeria and Ecuador outperformed, while Kenya’s dollar debt extended losses after President William Ruto said he’s withdrawing a contentious tax bill after deadly protests against his plan to raise $2.3 billion in new levies. Sri Lanka reached a final pact to recast $10 billion of its external debt.

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