Search

 

Cablegate: Credit Growth in Brazil Driving Economic Growth

VZCZCXRO7342
PP RUEHRG
DE RUEHSO #0832/01 2841924
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 111924Z OCT 07
FM AMCONSUL SAO PAULO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7567
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 8677
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 3832
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 8383
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 2897
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 3132
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO 0818
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 2461
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 2163
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 3512
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC 2922
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC 0698

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 SAO PAULO 000832

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
STATE FOR WHA/BSC, WHA/EPSC
STATE PASS USTR FOR KATE DUCKWORTH
STATE PASS FED BOARD OF GOVERNORS FOR ROBITAILLE
STATE PASS EXIMBANK
STATE PASS OPIC FOR DEMROSE, NRIVERA, CMERVENNE
NSC FOR TOMASULO
TREASURY FOR JHOEK
USDOC FOR 4332/ITA/MAC/WH/OLAC
USDOC ALSO FOR 3134/USFCS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EFIN ECON BR
SUBJECT: CREDIT GROWTH IN BRAZIL DRIVING ECONOMIC GROWTH

REF: SAO PAULO 709

Summary
-------

1. (U) Credit growth in Brazil is one of the major drivers of
economic growth despite some of the highest real interest rates in
the world. Overall credit availability is up 25 percent over the
last 12 months, especially in personal consumer credit and much of
this growth is attributed to rising incomes and business confidence.
New forms of credit are also bringing traditionally excluded lower
income Brazilians into the credit market; however, this sector
represents a significant risk of default. As the regulatory
framework in Brazil doesn't adequately protect banks against these
default risks, the result is higher interest rates. Overall,
economic analysts in Sao Paulo view Brazil's credit expansion as
positive; however, Brazil needs to strengthen the ability of banks
to review and share an applicant's credit history and credit checks
to ensure credit expansion remains a positive economic tool. End
Summary.

Brazil's Credit Booming, But Still Relatively Small
--------------------------------------------- ------

2. (U) Credit growth in Brazil is expanding quickly despite the
recent sub-prime credit turmoil in the U.S. (reftel). The Central
Bank's (CB) August bank lending data shows that Brazil's overall
credit volume has expanded by 25 percent over the last 12 months.
Total lending as a percent of GDP in Brazil was 33 percent in 2007,
up 10 percent from January 2004, and the CB forecasts continued
growth to about 40 percent of GDP by the end of 2009. However,
Brazil's share is still small relative to other countries such as
Malaysia, China, and Thailand where lending as a percent of GDP is
nearly 100 percent.

3. (U) Brazilians are buying a rising share of goods with credit,
including cars, clothes, food, small household appliances,
electronics, and real estate. Personal credit was responsible for
40 percent of credit growth in 2007 through August. Automobile
leases and real estate mortgages over the last 12 months are up 80
and 74 percent respectively. [Note: Mortgages in Brazil only
represent 1.6 percent of Brazil's overall GDP, compared with 60
percent of GDP in the U.S. End Note.] Retail stores also are
introducing store-specific credit cards, supplying the market with
even greater access to credit. According to Rodrigo Mariano, an
economist at the Federation of Commerce of Sao Paulo (Fecomercio),
credit cards represented 42 percent of outstanding debt in August.
Moreover, the CB reported in September that loan maturities are at a
six-year high, and that financing costs are declining. The average
maturity for consumer loans is about 9 months, and 14 months for
corporate loans. [Note: As a small comparison, the average maturity
for a U.S. new car loan in August was 62 months. End Note.]

A New Breed of Creditors
------------------------

4. (U) Marcelo Carvalho, Chief Economist at Morgan Stanley, told
Econoff that one of the most noticeable changes in the Brazilian
economy has been the growth in credit access especially for
Brazilians of lower income. New forms of credit, such as
payroll-linked credit have increased credit opportunities for lower
income Brazilians. Payroll-linked credit lines, up 24 percent in
2007, automatically deduct payment from a paycheck at significantly
lower interest rates. The Brazilian government introduced these
loans in 2004 for government employees and retirees, and their
interest rates are about half of traditional consumer loans.

Rate Cuts Don't Matter Much for Consumers
-----------------------------------------

SAO PAULO 00000832 002 OF 003

5. (U) The SELIC rate is the Brazilian reference interest rate,
which is the intra-bank lending rate, but more directly determines
what rate banks charge the government. Most consumer credit lines
are not directly indexed to the SELIC rate; however, SELIC rate cuts
indirectly lower borrowing costs for consumers and corporations.
While the CB has cut the SELIC by 8.25 percentage points (a 42
percent drop) to 11.25 percent since September 2005, corporate and
consumer rates remain high and have fallen by a lesser magnitude.
The average annual corporate lending rate for August was 23 percent,
and for consumers about 46 percent, down 30 and 35 percent
respectively over the same time period.

6. (U) A cut in the SELIC rate does indirectly encourage lending to
the private sector because banks capture higher profit margins than
they would lending to the government. However, the lack of
competition and underdeveloped regulations in the Brazilian banking
sector limit consumers' benefits from a rate cut. Employees often
are required to use specific banks to receive paychecks, limiting
incentives to market to individual consumers. The banking sector is
highly concentrated, which also restricts competition and lessens
the effects of a cut.

7. (U) A Brazilian law preventing banks from sharing positive
personal credit history reports also minimizes consumers' ability to
switch banks seeking better rates. A positive credit history would
increase the information available to lenders, reduce the default
rate, and lower credit costs, but the Brazilian government has made
little attempt to address the issue. Without a traditional credit
score such as that in the U.S., all borrowers pay a default premium
and thus interest rates are artificially high.

The Booming Economy the Real Driver
-----------------------------------

8. (U) Mariano told Econoff that the private sector's expectation
for economic stability over the short and medium term is helping
drive both the supply and maturity of consumer credit. This
business optimism is due in part to interest rate cuts and is
driving companies to find strategies to increase local demand for
their products. On the demand side, the increase in workers'
incomes and the creation of credit lines that deduct directly from
paychecks are propelling consumer credit growth.

Credit Growth Not a Concern Now, But...
-------------------------------------

9. (U) Generally speaking, credit expansion in Brazil is positive
and helps to drive domestic economic growth; however, there are
several long-term concerns. Ulisses Gamboa, an economist for the
Commercial Association of Sao Paulo, told Econoff that Brazil's
regulatory framework for credit checks is weak. On the retail
lending side, stores perform basic credit checks before issuing
credit cards; however, Brazil doesn't have an interstate system for
checking credit history, so establishments must individually check
each known state of residence. Furthermore, Gamboa noted the
regulatory body absolves a person's bad credit history after 5
years.

10. (U) The delinquency rate for private consumers in Brazil has
been fairly stable, approximately 7.2 percent in August. Overall,
Brazil's delinquency rate is much lower than its Latin American
counterparts. [Note: According to U.S. Federal Reserve data, the
U.S. delinquency rate across all consumer loans for the second
quarter of 2007 was about 3 percent. End Note.] Mariano told
Econoff that the stable delinquency rate is partly due to the
extended payment timeframes and lower interest rates. However,
Fecomercio's monthly survey of consumer indebtedness and delinquency
(PEIC) in Sao Paulo in August showed that 59 percent of respondents

SAO PAULO 00000832 003 OF 003


were indebted, and 22 percent of those indebted are more than 90
days overdue. Over the longer term, Mariano is concerned that
increased indebtedness could imply higher default levels and lead
banks to restrict new credit availability or raise interest rates
across the various credit products.

11. (U) The lack of personal finance skills among Brazilians who
have recently gained access to credit sources as a result of higher
incomes and financial reforms also is a potential source of concern.
According to Mariano, the new profile of Brazilian consumers live
month-to-month, and don't consider future savings or future income
streams when making credit purchases. According to the Fecomercio
survey, 36 percent said they were behind on payments because of a
lack of financial control, and another 30 percent because of
unexpected expenses. Furthermore, the common practice in Brazil of
dividing purchases into a series of monthly payments encourages
bigger and more purchases by postponing liabilities to a future
date.

12. (U) Despite greater access to cheaper credit, an age-old
mechanism for covering excessive monthly expenses called the "cheque
especial" grew considerably. Banks provide an overdraft credit to
meet immediate cash needs at much higher interest rates, near double
the rate of traditional credit lines. [Note: The average interest
rate for this line of credit in July was 139 percent. End Note.]
Initially, demand for this service declined with cheaper credit
options, but renewed demand suggests that it has become a last
resort for people that have exhausted other forms of credit.

Comment
-------

13. (U) Brazil's credit story reflects the positive business
climate and indirectly the decline in real interest rates. Although
growth has been strongest in relatively low-risk consumer segments
such as vehicle and payroll loans, there remain risks associated
with increasing the availability of credit to a new segment of the
population. Overall, the total lending as a percent of GDP is low,
and many economists in Sao Paulo are not concerned about the rapid
growth of personal credit for the moment. As with any market
liberalization, Brazil needs to address the regulatory framework to
strengthen the Brazilian credit system in order to ensure stability
in the rate of default and to bring interest rates down. End
Comment.

14. (U) This cable has been coordinated with Embassy Brasilia and
the Financial Attache.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

UN: As COVID Deaths Pass Two Million Worldwide, Guterres Warns Against Self-Defeating ‘Vaccinationalism'

With more than two million lives now lost worldwide to COVID-19, the UN Secretary-General appealed on Friday for countries to work together and help each other to end the pandemic and save lives. In a video statement , Secretary-General António Guterres ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Washington Riot And The Georgia Results

Hong Kong and Washington DC. On the same morning, the tyrants in power in Beijing and their counterpart in the White House have shown how they refuse to accept the legitimacy of any different points of view, and the prospect of losing power… More>>

UN: Violent Attempt At US Capitol To ‘overturn’ Election, Shocking And Incendiary

A group of independent UN rights experts released ... More>>

UN: Guterres To Seek Second Five-year Term
António Guterres will be seeking a second five-year term as UN Secretary-General, which would begin in January 2022.... More>>