November 26, 2019 / 1:34 PM / 12 days ago

UPDATE 3-Brazil real hits record low, central bank intervenes twice

(Adds detail, updates prices)

By Jamie McGeever

BRASILIA, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Brazil’s currency slid to an all-time low against the dollar on Tuesday, forcing two rounds of central bank intervention to ease the pressure after comments from Economy Minister Paulo Guedes that he was not worried about its weakness.

The second of the central bank’s two auctions of at least $1 million, following President Jair Bolsonaro’s calls for a weaker dollar, managed to knock the dollar off its record high perch of 4.2770 reais back down to around 4.2400 reais.

But the Brazilian currency’s broader trajectory for the day remained firmly downward, after Guedes said in Washington on Monday that a weakening exchange rate is a natural consequence of falling interest rates.

In another speech in the U.S. capital on Tuesday, Guedes made no mention of the currency’s slump, suggesting it was not a major concern. That coincided with the real hitting a fresh low, followed by the central bank’s second dollar sale.

“It’s chaos,” said the head of trading at one bank in Sao Paulo, referring to the day’s whiplash in currency markets.

Brazil’s real has been one of the worst-performing emerging market currencies this year and was one of the biggest losers against the dollar on Tuesday among emerging market currencies, most of which were also lower.

The Brazilian currency’s decline accelerated this month after foreign bidders effectively failed to show up at a “mega” oil auction, meaning inflows into Brazil will be billions of dollars lighter than officials and traders had banked on.

The dollar’s record high of 4.2770 reais on Tuesday was almost 1% higher than the previous peak, reached in 2015 when Brazil was mired in one of the worst recessions in its history.

Traders said it was unclear how much currency the central bank had auctioned on the spot market. Central bank President Roberto Campos Neto said earlier this month that any action in the FX market would be to alleviate illiquid trading conditions.

Earlier on Tuesday, Bolsonaro said he would like to see the dollar fall but also backed Guedes, whose comments on Monday were widely cited as the reason for the latest wave of selling.

“I hope it (the dollar) falls,” Bolsonaro said.

In his remarks to reporters in Washington on Monday, Guedes said a lower currency was a natural consequence of lower borrowing costs. “When you have ... lower interest rates, the equilibrium exchange rate is also higher,” he said, referring to the dollar’s rate against the real.

The central bank has cut its benchmark Selic rate by 150 basis points to a record-low 5.00%, and Campos Neto has said another 50 bps cut next month is likely.

Campos Neto was set to speak at an event in Brasilia later on Tuesday. (Reporting by Jamie McGeever; Additional reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu in Brasilia and Andrea Shalal in Washington Editing by Catherine Evans, Steve Orlofsky and Tom Brown)

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