Brazilian equity ETFs defy political turmoil

Sep 6th, 2016 | By | Category: Equities

Exchange-traded funds tracking Brazilian equities continue to be buoyed this week after president Dilma Rousseff was impeached, ending a year-long saga of political uncertainty in the country.

Brazil ETFs iShares Dilma Rousseff

Brazilian equities are on track to be the best performing market of 2016 with the MSCI Brazil Index up 32.7% year-to-date (1 September 2016).

While the news that Rousseff was manipulating the federal budget to cover up the nation’s economic woes may not have been that surprising, the final announcement of her impeachment has nonetheless supported Brazilian equities.

Brazil is now on track to become the best performing market in 2016.

The Ibovespa Brasil Sao Paulo Stock Exchange Index, the country’s blue-chip index, which tracks 58 leading companies, is up more than 28% over the last year and has rocketed more than 37% since 1 January in local currency.

That compares to 15.9% and 6.6% performance of the S&P 500 index in US dollar terms over the respective time frames.

The good performance in Brazil is partly thanks to the rebounding price of oil, as Brazil is a large commodity exporter. (Oil prices per barrel have recovered from around $25 at the start of the year to more than $44 in September.) In addition, the weakening US dollar has helped the Brazilian real. (USD/BRL is up 21% since the start of the year to $0.306 as of 6 September.)

Investor confidence has also returned as investors ploughed close to $650m into the iShares MSCI Brazil Capped ETF (NYSE ARCA: EWZ) – the largest Brazil ETF in the market – since 1 January.

There are four ETFs listed in Europe from iShares, HSBC, Amundi and db X-trackers that follow the MSCI Brazil Index. This index tracks 61 companies with over one third of the exposure in financials. The top holding is Itaú Unibanco at over 10% of the fund.

The cheapest option is the $59m Amundi ETF MSCI Brazil UCITS ETF (LSE: BRZ) at 0.55% per year. Listed in US dollars on the London Stock Exchange, BRZ has rocketed more than 65% year to date.

The iShares MSCI Brazil UCITS ETF (LSE: IBZL), launched in 2005, is much larger at £229m but it is more expensive at 0.74%. Listed in sterling, this fund has benefitted from the favourable currency exchange and has generated an incredible 83.8% year to date.

There is only one ETF in Europe that tracks the bellwether Brazilian index. The Lyxor Brazil (IBOVESPA) UCITS ETF C-USD (LSE: RIOU) costs 0.65%. In USD it has generated 66% year to date, and in sterling (LSE: RIOL) it has returned 86% over the same period.

As to the future performance of Brazil’s equity market, uncertainty remains in the political sphere. Michel Timer has been appointed president until 2018, when Rousseff’s term would have ended. Rousseff’s legal team are working to submit an appeal in court, and to push Temer back into the position of interim president.

Normally, an impeachment would have deterred foreign investment and caused a collapse in the economy, but Rousseff’s trial has not resulted in either of these scenarios.

“Since the start of Temer’s presidency, his new government has gained the markets’ support,” wrote Yesenia Lugo of Global Risk Insights. “Moving forward, Temer vows to push ahead with a range of politically risky economic changes, such as the privatization of public companies, limits on public spending, and an overhaul of the pension system.”

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