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Cablegate: Macroeconomic Update July 2007

VZCZCXRO4882
RR RUEHAO RUEHCD RUEHGA RUEHGD RUEHGR RUEHHA RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHNG
RUEHNL RUEHQU RUEHRD RUEHRG RUEHRS RUEHTM RUEHVC
DE RUEHCV #1416/01 1981359
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 171359Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9268
INFO RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 09 CARACAS 001416

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

TREASURY FOR KLINGENSMITH, NGRANT, AND MMALLOY
COMMERCE FOR 4431/MAC/WH/MCAMERON
ENERGY FOR ALOCKWOOD
NSC FOR DTOMLINSON AND JSHRIER
HQ SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EFIN VE
SUBJECT: MACROECONOMIC UPDATE JULY 2007

REF: A. CARACAS 667

B. CARACAS 741
C. CARACAS 930
D. CARACAS 959
E. CARACAS 994
F. CARACAS 1031
G. CARACAS 1389

THIS MESSAGE IS SENSITIVE, BUT UNCLASSIFIED. PLEASE TREAT
ACCORDINGLY.

-------
CONTENT
-------

1. Overview
2. Economic growth
3. Unemployment
4. International reserves
5. Money supply M2
6. Exchange rates, Central Bank liquidations, and
Venezuelan basket average oil prices
7. Consumer price index
8. Balance of payments
9. Merchandise trade balance
10. Foreign direct investment
11. Caracas stock exchange index
12. Central government financial results
13. Central government debt
14. Banking system
15. Interest rates
16. Internet resources

--------
OVERVIEW
--------

1. Massive government expenditures, excess liquidity, and a
consumption boom have led to high economic growth rates for
the last fourteen consecutive quarters. These same
tendencies have contributed to inflation rates nearing 20
percent a year and inflation shows no sign of declining,
despite the government's efforts. As government accounts
become less transparent and institutions like the Central
Bank and the National Statistics Institute lose autonomy,
figures and methods have become untrustworthy. A weakening
investment climate has led to capital outflows in recent
years and the overvalued official exchange rate encourages
imports and discourages domestic industry. Debt levels are
relatively low and the balance of payments and foreign
exchange reserves will remain manageable unless oil prices or
production fall. Government intervention continues to affect
the financial sector and private sector institutions are
under threat.

---------------
ECONOMIC GROWTH
---------------

2. The Venezuelan economy has grown consistently during the
past fourteen consecutive quarters. GDP grew 10.3 percent
(in real terms) in both 2005 and 2006 and has grown 8.8
percent thus far in 2007. Non-oil economic activities such
as finance (26 percent), communications (18 percent),
commerce (21 percent), transportation (16 percent), and
construction (27 percent) have grown faster than other
sectors. This positive trend has been driven by the huge
increase in government expenditures made possible by windfall
oil profits. On the other hand, the oil sector has
contracted during the past two years (the Central Bank
calculates oil sector GDP with constant prices, so changes do
not reflect changes in the price of oil). During the first
quarter of 2007 oil sector GDP decreased by 5.6 percent. We
expect the Venezuelan economy to grow between 6-8 percent in
real terms in 2007.

REAL GDP GROWTH RATE
(PERCENTAGE)
--------------------


CARACAS 00001416 002 OF 009


OIL NON-OIL TOTAL

2000 2.3 4.2 3.7
2001 -0.9 4.0 3.4
2002 -14.2 -6.0 -8.9
2003 -1.9 -7.4 -7.8
2004 13.7 16.1 18.3
2005 2.6 11.1 10.3
2006 -1.9 11.7 10.3
2007
I Q -5.6 10.6 8.8

SOURCE: Central Bank of Venezuela.

------------
UNEMPLOYMENT
------------

3. According to government statistics, the unemployment rate
has fallen precipitously in recent years in line with GDP
growth. Unemployment figures have been questionable since
the National Statistics Institute (INE) changed its (still
unpublished) methodology in 2000. Similarly, poverty figures
have been unreliable since methodological changes in 2005 and
there are concerns that inflation data will be affected by
plans to change measurements in the third quarter of 2007.
Since 2005, unemployment has reportedly fallen by more than
five percentage points, although most attribute this decline
to reductions in the labor force, rather than increases in
employment (reftel F). The informal sector has also been
decreasing in size, amounting to 44 percent of total
employees (11.2 million) during May 2007. INE recently
announced a new change to its methodology, which will reduce
the informal sector to around 34 percent of the labor force.
Government social programs (missions) reduce unemployment
figures by removing participants from the labor force and
estimates are that the missions currently "employ" around
five percent of the labor force.

UNEMPLOYMENT (END OF YEAR)
--------------------------

2000 13.2
2001 12.8
2002 16.2
2003 16.8
2004 13.9
2005 11.4
2006 9.5

2007
JAN 11.1
FEB 10.9
MAR 9.5
APR 8.8
MAY 8.0

SOURCE: National Institute of Statistics (INE).

----------------------
INTERNATIONAL RESERVES
----------------------

4. International reserves have decreased by almost USD 12
billion during 2007 because of the USD 6.8 billion transfer
of funds from the Central Bank (BCV) to the National
Development Fund (FONDEN) in February (USD 2 billion), March
(USD 2.5 billion), and April (USD 2.3 billion) of 2007. In
addition, PDVSA's USD 7.5 billion bond issuance in April 2007
drew down reserves as PDSVA converted the Bolivars earned
from the sale into dollars (reftel A). Increases in imports
have also contributed to this decrease as has the decision to
maintain PDVSA's dollar earnings in special
dollar-denominated treasury accounts. Since its inception in
2005, FONDEN has received upwards of USD 17 billion in
transfers from the BCV. The allocations of these funds and
their uses are mostly unknown due to the severe lack of
transparency regarding FONDEN's activities.

INTERNATIONAL RESERVES (USD MILLIONS)

CARACAS 00001416 003 OF 009


---------------------------------------
BCV FIEM TOTAL

2000 DEC 15,883 4,588 20,471
2001 DEC 12,296 6,227 18,523
2002 DEC 12,003 2,857 14,860
2003 DEC 20,666 700 21,366
2004 DEC 23,498 710 24,208
2005 DEC 29,636 732 30,368
2006 DEC 36,672 768 37,440

2007
JAN 35,620 772 36,392
FEB 32,569 775 33,344
MAR 31,520 779 32,299
APR 26,393 782 27,175
MAY 24,456 786 25,242
JUN 24,346 789 25,135

SOURCE: Central Bank of Venezuela.

---------------
MONEY SUPPLY/M2
---------------

5. Money supply growth during the last four years has
increased inflationary pressures. In part to reduce excess
liquidity, state-owned oil company PDVSA issued bonds worth
USD 7.5 billion in April 2007 (reftel A). The issuance
didn't have the desired effect on liquidity as banks were
able to fund the purchases by redeeming money held in
BCV-issued certificates of deposit (reftel B). As such,
liquidity was hardly affected. On July 10, 2007, the BCV's
board of directors increased minimum interest rates on
savings accounts from 6.5 percent to 8 percent, and raised
legal reserve requirements from 15 percent to 17 percent,
hoping to reduce liquidity. Most experts do not expect these
measures to have a significant effect.

MONEY SUPPLY/M2 (1) MONETARY BASE
-------------------- ---------------------

End of: (million Bs.) Pct.Chg. (million Bs.) Pct.Chg.

2000 16,284,578 27.8 5,790,841 17.9
2001 16,976,364 4.2 6,478,295 11.9
2002 19,573,369 15.3 7,701,120 18.9
2003 30,835,975 57.5 11,274,439 46.4
2004 46,363,672 50.4 16,524,461 46.6
2005 70,795,981 52.7 23,086,512 39.7
2006 119,892,075 69.3 44,795,446 94.0

2007 (2)
JAN 117,532,707 -2.0 43,643,278 -2.6
FEB 118,613,669 0.9 44,101,646 1.1
MAR 121,255,451 2.2 44,974,362 2.0
APR 117,507,673 -3.1 42,953,106 -4.5
MAY 117,875,115 0.3 43,605,464 1.5
JUN 120,910,402 2.6 45,532,879 4.4

(1) M2 includes currency, demand deposits, savings, and
certificates of deposit.
(2) Preliminary figures.

SOURCE: Central Bank of Venezuela.

--------------------------------------------- ----------
EXCHANGE RATES, BCV LIQUIDATIONS, AND VENEZUELAN BASKET
AVERAGE OIL PRICE
--------------------------------------------- ----------

6. Foreign exchange controls have been in place since
February 2003, and the current fixed exchange rate of 2,150
Bolivars per dollar since March 2005. At the same time, the
spread between the official rate and that obtained in the
unregulated parallel market has grown from around 20 percent
to over 90 percent. According to the Minister of Finance
Rodrigo Cabezas, the BRV will not devalue the currency for
the foreseeable future. Most economists believe that the BRV
will have to devalue when oil prices decline, or when

CARACAS 00001416 004 OF 009


expenditures exceed revenues such that devaluation becomes
necessary to maintain the public sector. Distortions in the
Venezuelan economy continue to increase, and the longer the
BRV postpones devaluation, the greater the cost of the
adjustment will be for the economy. Daily BCV liquidations
so far in 2007 are USD 156 million, as of July 6, 2007. This
represents an increase of 48.6 percent over the daily average
in 2006.

END OF PERIOD EXCHANGE RATES (Bolivars/USD)
CENTRAL BANK'S LIQUIDATIONS, AND AVERAGE OIL PRICE
--------------------------------------------- -----

DAILY CENTRAL VENEZUELAN
OFFICIAL PARALLEL BANK AVERAGE BASKET OIL
MARKET MARKET LIQUIDATIONS PRICE
(1) (USD million) (USD/barrel)
---------- ---------- ------------ --------------

2000 699.75 25.91
2001 763.00 20.21
2002 1,401.25 21.95
2003 1,600.00 2,875.00 17.90 25.76
2004 1,920.00 2,673.41 58.40 32.88
2005 2,150.00 2,586.08 78.60 46.03
2006 2,150.00 3,412.46 105.00 56.45

2007
JAN 2,150.00 4,293.44 160.00 46.83
FEB 2,150.00 3,798.27 189.00 50.41
MAR 2,150.00 3,650.00 124.00 53.03
APR 2,150.00 3,750.00 117.00 58.38
MAY 2,150.00 4,100.00 206.00 59.41
JUN 2,150.00 4,150.00 156.00 62.73

(1) Starting in March 2007, the parallel exchange rate is
based on the bond swap selling rate. Before that date, it is
the rate obtained using CANTV ADRs.

SOURCES: BCV, CADIVI, Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, and
Metroeconomica (private consulting firm).

--------------------
CONSUMER PRICE INDEX
--------------------

7. The government's inflation target for the year was
recently revised from 12 to 14 percent. However, the current
yearly inflation rate is almost 20 percent and inflation in
Venezuela typically increases over the course of the year.
Price controls in force since 2003, a reduction in the value
added tax (IVA) from 14 percent to 9 percent, massive
importation, and increases in reserve requirements have had
limited effects in reducing inflation. The oil bonanza and
associated consumption boom continue to offset anti-inflation
measures. There are also shortages of basic food items,
including milk, meat, beans, sugar, and chicken, as well as
construction materials, vehicle parts, and medicines (reftel
E).

CONSUMER PRICE INDEX (1997 AVG = 100) and CORE INFLATION
--------------------------------------------- -------------
CPI CPI CORE INFLATION
END OF PERIOD (% change) (% change)

2000 206.0 13.4 12.8
2001 231.3 12.3 11.3
2002 303.5 31.2 31.2
2003 385.7 27.1 37.9
2004 459.7 19.2 21.1
2005 525.7 14.4 14.6
2006 614.9 17.0 16.3

2007
JAN 627.2 2.0 1.5
FEB 635.8 1.4 2.9
MAR 631.1 (0.7) 1.1
APR 640.0 1.4 1.2
MAY 651.1 1.7 1.8
JUN 662.6 1.8 1.9

CARACAS 00001416 005 OF 009

SOURCE: Central Bank of Venezuela.

-------------------
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
-------------------

8. The negative capital account balance is expected to reach
a record high in 2007 and international reserves are
estimated to fall by as much as USD 10 billion. The public
sector increase in foreign assets and the amount of private
sector capital flight will exceed the expected positive
current account balance (mainly from oil sales). The balance
of payments deficit may already be greater than it appears as
the official numbers imply oil revenues that far exceed most
private estimates of Venezuelan production. If the negative
overall balance of payment continues, it will become harder
to maintain the current exchange rate (reftel D).

BALANCE OF PAYMENTS SUMMARY
(USD BILLION)
---------------------------

JAN-MAR Forecast
2005 2006 2006 2007(1) 2007

CURRENT ACCOUNT (A) 25.5 27.2 7.0 3.7 13.0
EXPORTS, FOB 55.5 65.2 15.5 13.7 56.0
IMPORTS, FOB -23.7 -32.2 -6.2 -9.1 -37.6
TRADE BALANCE 31.8 33.0 9.3 4.6 18.4
NET SERVICES AND RENT-6.2 - 5.8 -2.3 -0.9 -5.3
NET TRANSFERS -0.1 -0.1 -0.1 -0.1 -0.1
CAPITAL AND FINANCIAL
ACCOUNT (B) -16.8 -19.5 -5.6 -8.3 -22.6
DIRECT INVESTMENT 1.4 -2.6 -2.0 -1.1 -2.0
PORTFOLIO INVESTMENT -0.8 -7.6 -0.8 -2.5 -5.6
OTHER INVESTMENT -17.5 -9.2 -2.8 -4.7 -15.0
NET ERRORS AND
OMISSIONS (C) -3.2 -3.0 -0.4 -1.0 0.0
OVERALL BALANCE
(A) (B) (C) 5.5 4.7 1.0 -5.6 -9.6

(1) Preliminary figures.

SOURCES: Central Bank of Venezuela, and Ecoanalitica
(private consulting firm).

-------------------------
MERCHANDISE TRADE BALANCE
-------------------------

9. The overvaluation of the national currency along with
liquidity increases has caused huge increases in imports and
the reduction of non-oil exports. The United States remains
Venezuelan's largest trading partner, representing almost 50
percent of total trade during 2006, followed by Colombia (6.2
percent), and Mexico (4.9 percent). Although the BRV is
trying to diversify its trading partners, historical
relationships and strong commercial ties make it difficult
for the BRV to do so.

MERCHANDISE TRADE BALANCE (USD BILLION)
---------------------------------------

JAN-MAR Forecast
2005 2006 2006 2007(1) 2007

OIL EXPORTS (A) 48.1 58.4 13.9 12.1 50.0

NON-OIL EXPORTS (B) 7.4 6.8 1.6 1.6 6.0

TOTAL EXPORTS (C) 55.5 65.2 15.5 13.7 56.0

TOTAL IMPORTS (D) -23.7 -32.2 -6.2 -9.1 -37.6

MERCHANDISE TRADE
BALANCE (C)-(D) 31.8 33.0 9.3 4.6 18.4

(1) Preliminary figures.


CARACAS 00001416 006 OF 009


SOURCE: Central Bank of Venezuela, Ecoanalitica, and
Embassy estimates.

-------------------------
FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT
-------------------------

10. Foreign direct investment in Venezuela continues to
decrease. The socialist project that the BRV is trying to
impose, the announced constitutional changes (reftel G), and
the uncertain political and economic future, have restrained
investors from making new investments. On the contrary, some
foreign companies have decided to sell their assets in
Venezuela and to move abroad.

Abroad In Venezuela Net flow

2000 -521 4,701 4,180
2001 -204 3,683 3,479
2002 -1,026 782 -244
2003 -1,318 2,040 722
2004 -619 1,483 864
2005 -1,183 2,583 1,400
2006 -2,089 -543 -2,632

2007 (1)
I quarter -795 -260 -1,055

(1) Preliminary figures

Source: Central Bank of Venezuela.

----------------------------
CARACAS STOCK EXCHANGE INDEX
----------------------------

11. The Caracas Stock Exchange has been negatively affected
by the nationalization of the largest telecommunications
company CANTV and the main electrical utility EDC. Combined,
these companies represented around 30 percent of all
securities traded on the exchange, and often represented over
50 percent of daily volumes. Continual harassment of the
private sector and increased political and economic
uncertainty, coupled with nationalizations and presidential
announcements such as the plans to withdraw from the IMF have
all contributed to the negative behavior of the
capitalization index. Venezuelan steel company, Sivensa, now
represents almost half of the exchange and what was already a
small capital market continues to shrink.

CARACAS STOCK EXCHANGE CAPITALIZATION INDEX
(DECEMBER 1993 = 1,000)
-------------------------------------------

2005 2006 2007

JANUARY 29,303.14 25,119.59 43,965.85
FEBRUARY 30,388.61 28,299.33 52,533.71
MARCH 28,977.07 30,882.46 48,945.67
APRIL 25,089.14 31,194.16 43,363.32
MAY 22,493.91 30,270.60 39,481.26
JUNE 21,595.64 30,747.27 40,584.95
JULY 20,561.79 34,230.54
AUGUST 19,702.21 35,356.57
SEPTEMBER 20,769.36 35,392.58
OCTOBER 19,561.74 38,163.31
NOVEMBER 19,992.69 43,113.17
DECEMBER 20,394.83 52,233.68

SOURCES: Caracas Stock Exchange, and Metroeconomica.

------------------------------------
CENTRAL GOVERNMENT FINANCIAL RESULTS
------------------------------------

12. The BRV has been trying to avoid monetization of
extraordinary oil revenues through the creation of two
dollar-denominated accounts at the National Treasury Office.
The accumulation amounted to over USD 7 billion as of July
12, 2007. The diversion of funds from the Central Bank has

CARACAS 00001416 007 OF 009


temporarily decreased petroleum revenues and is in part
responsible for the central government's deficit during the
first quarter of 2007. These funds are converted to Bolivars
at the Central Bank as they are needed by PDVSA to pay
expenses. Non-oil revenues represented 57 percent of
ordinary spending during January-April 2007. Total central
government expenditures grew by 9.2 percent in real terms
during the same period.

CENTRAL GOVERNMENT FINANCIAL RESULTS
(USD billion)
------------------------------------


JAN-APR
2004 2005 2006 2006 2007(1)

TOTAL REVENUES 36.1 48.3 62.3 16.2 17.7

Ordinary revenue (A) 24.0 36.2 51.9 14.8 16.4
Petroleum revenue 12.8 19.5 29.4 7.6 6.6

Non-petroleum revenue 11.3 16.7 22.5 7.2 9.8
Extraordinary revenue 12.1 12.1 10.4 1.4 1.3


TOTAL EXPENDITURES 32.6 41.4 58.5 18.4 20.1
Ordinary expenditures (B)27.2 36.4 53.0 15.7 17.2
Extraordinary expenditures5.4 5.0 5.5 2.7 2.9

SURPLUS OR DEFICIT (A))(B) -3.2 -0.2 -1.1 -0.9 -0.8

(1) Preliminary figures.

Sources: Central Bank of Venezuela.

-----------------------
CENTRAL GOVERNMENT DEBT
-----------------------

13. Central government debt levels have been stable during
the last four years. Public credit officials at the Ministry
of Finance told Econoffs that they will continue to
reschedule debt during 2007, buying back the most expensive
debt first. At the same time, state-owned oil company PDVSA
has been increasing its external debt. Thus far in 2007,
PDVSA has issued over USD 12.5 billion in dollar-denominated
debt, presumably to continue to finance government social
programs and maintain transfers to FONDEN (reftel C).

END OF PERIOD CENTRAL GOVERNMENT DEBT
(USD BILLION)
-------------------------------------

Q1

2004 2005 2006 2007 (1)

FOREIGN DEBT 27.2 31.1 27.3 26.5

Bond holders 21.0 25.4 21.5 21.4
Commercial banks 2.0 2.0 1.8 1.7
Bilateral 0.6 0.5 0.5 0.5
Multilateral 3.5 3.1 3.4 2.8
Suppliers 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1

DOMESTIC DEBT 15.5 15.6 16.8 15.9
------ ----- ----- ------
TOTAL 42.7 46.7 44.1 42.4

(1) Preliminary figures.

SOURCE: Ministry of Finance.

--------------
BANKING SYSTEM
--------------

15. This is one of the economic sectors that has grown
fastest during the last four years. Banks in Venezuela have

CARACAS 00001416 008 OF 009


been actively financing the consumption boom. Loans for
cars, homes, and credit cards have doubled in less than two
years. Financial sector returns exceed 30 percent and
business is booming. In part because of perceived "excess
profits," the government has been threatening the financial
sector with profit caps and potential nationalization. To
date, most of the pressure has been in the form of fixed
interest rates, directed lending requirements, and tax
increases.

BANKING SYSTEM KEY INDICATORS
(percentages)
-----------------------------

DEC 05 DEC 06 MAR 07
Past due loans/
gross loans 1.08 1.06 1.06

Credit portfolio allowance/
past due loans 251.34 229.09 210.51

Equity/total assets 11.12 9.81 9.41

Net financial margin/
average asset 3.66 2.97 2.40

Net financial margin/
average equity 32.49 31.64 29.09

Net loans/
total deposits 54.86 48.81 50.72

Source: SUDEBAN

--------------
INTEREST RATES
--------------

16. On July 10, 2007, the BCV issued a resolution changing
maximum and minimum interest rates for lending (28 percent)
and savings (8 percent). Also, certificates of deposit
issued by financial institutions now must pay at least 11
percent interest, and the certificates of deposit issued by
the BCV will pay 10 percent with a maturity of 28 days, and
11 percent for those maturing in 56 days. By reducing
financial margins, bank profits may fall in the short term.

AVERAGE INTEREST RATES OF THE SIX MOST IMPORTANT
COMMERCIAL AND UNIVERSAL BANKS
--------------------------------------------- ---

Loans Deposits
------- -------------------
Savings 90 days

2000 23.91 3.35 14.80
2001 25.64 2.40 14.13
2002 37.08 3.90 28.29
2003 24.05 6.15 17.58
2004 17.06 4.52 12.93
2005 15.36 6.64 11.74
2006 14.64 6.81 10.20

2007
JAN 15.78 6.58 10.05
FEB 15.50 6.58 10.13
MAR 14.94 6.58 14.94
APR 15.99 6.57 10.11
MAY 15.94 6.57 10.12
JUN 14.91 6.57 10.14

SOURCE: Central Bank of Venezuela.

------------------
INTERNET RESOURCES
------------------

17. INTERNET RESOURCES:

AMEMBASSY CARACAS WEBSITE: venezuela.usembassy.gov

CARACAS 00001416 009 OF 009


-
EXCHANGE RATES AND INTERNATIONAL RESERVES: www.bcv.org.ve
-
STOCK EXCHANGE: www.caracasstock.com
-
TRADE AND LABOR FORCE STATISTICS: www.ine.gov.ve
-
BUSINESS INFORMATION: www.venamcham.org
-
INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES: www.conapri.org
-
PETROLEUM INFORMATION: www.pdvsa.com,
www.mep.gov.ve
-
PUBLIC FINANCE INFORMATION: www.mf.gov.ve
-
FINANCIAL INDICATORS: www.sudeban.gov.ve
-
ECONOMIC PUBLICATIONS: www.metroeconomica.com.ve,
www.veneconomy.com, www.bancomercantil.com, www.provincial.com
-
NEWSPAPERS: www.eluniversal.com,
www.el-nacional.com
-
LEGAL PUBLICATIONS: www.datalegis.com.ve,
www.bpmaw.com, www.traviesoevans.com,
www.tpa.com.ve, www.drba.com.ve
-
VENEZUELAN GOVERNMENT: www.venezuela.gov.ve,
www.platino.gov.ve

FRENCH

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