Thursday, October 15, 2015

Latin America's commodities downturn problem

The Oilholic finds himself roughly 5,300 miles west of London in Bogota, Colombia wandering around the city’s rustic and charming La Candelaria area. 

It’s the beginning of a journey through South America to find out how the recent commodities downturn is affecting the market mood and investment outlook in what (still) remains a very commodity-exports driven continent. 

One gets a sense of opportunities missed and dismay from those who saw the downturn coming – not just here in Colombia, but looking outside in at Chile, Argentina, Peru and of course that colossal corruption scandal at Petrobas in Brazil. While the sun was shining, and China’s double digit economic growth was fuelling the commodities boom, attempts should have been made at macroeconomic diversification instead of relying on a party that was bound to end sooner or later.

We’re not just talking oil and gas here; take in everything from minerals to soya beans, or copper specifically in the case of Chile. Most Latin American currencies got marginal power boosters during the commodities boom, if not a case of full blown Dutch disease, which resulted in lacklustre performance from non-commodities sectors that became increasingly uncompetitive and to an extent unproductive over the last 10 years.

The International Monetary Fund reckons come the end of 2015, if headline regional growth touches 1% we’d be lucky. In fact, in its latest update the IMF confirmed that Latin America would see its fifth successive year of economic output deceleration. While past commodity busts have triggered regional financial crises, thankfully not many locally as well as internationally, including the IMF, expect a repeat this time around. That’s largely down to the fact LatAm economies, with notable exception of Venezuela, have not indulged in fiscal populism and daft economic policies.

In sync, ratings agencies, while negative on the economic outlook of many countries in the region, but only fear a sovereign default in Venezuela. However, another negative aspect of dependency on the commodities market is that investment – especially on terms prior to the market correction – would be hard to come by.

Just ask Mexico! As the Oilholic noted in a recent column for Forbes, phase I of round one of Mexico’s oil and gas licensing was a damp squib. Hence, with the September 2015 (phase II) bidding round, the Mexicans had to adjust their thinking to attract (and eventually) secure a decent take-up of available blocks.

Peru’s nascent oil and gas market, Colombia’s emerging and hitherto impressive one face similar challenges as will the copper market in Chile. Argentina faces a general election on October 25th while Brazil is in a technical recession with the IMF seeing few improvement prospects for 2016.

Productivity, in all five countries is down with workers spending hours in a day commuting, and traffic jams (the first of which the Oilholic has already experienced) are legendary enough to give Bangkok and Delhi a run for their money. 

Over the coming weeks yours truly will make sense of it all talking to experts, policymakers, fellow analysts and local folks one is likely to meet and greet while having the odd touristy mumble about. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.
To email:

© Gaurav Sharma 2015. La Candelaria, Bogota, Colombia © Gaurav Sharma, October, 2015

No comments:


For comments or for professional queries, please email:

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here