By Gabriel Burin
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Brazil’s central bank is set to keep its benchmark interest rate at a cycle-high of 13.75% next week, stressing heightened worries over new government plans to boost social spending, a Reuters poll showed.
The bank’s rate-setting committee, known as Copom, has maintained a hawkish stance that could stoke divisions with the incoming administration by leading to a tighter policy in 2023 than previously thought.
Fearing a resurgence in inflation amid calls for extra government spending, the bank is seen leaving the Selic rate at 13.75% on Wednesday for the third meeting in a row, according to a majority of estimates in a poll conducted Nov. 28-Dec. 1.
Out of the 32 respondents, 31 said they expected the Selic to remain unchanged this month. Only one called for a small hike of 25 basis points to 14.0% in the last policy meeting of 2022.
The first major central bank to begin aggressive tightening following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Copom has raised the Selic rate a total of 1,175 basis points since early 2021, but signaled in August it was likely done.
“Inflation and fiscal risks now imply a vigilant central bank … Copom will maintain the Selic rate at 13.75% for a long period, with the easing cycle beginning in June 2023,” Daniel Xavier, senior economist at Banco ABC Brasil, said.
This week, one of the central bank’s directors said markets were more sensitive to fiscal news as that could impact the Brazilian currency, change expectations and directly affect inflation through expenditures.
His remarks came as the government transition team of President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva negotiates more budgetary room for welfare expenses in 2023 in a multibillion-dollar waiver from a constitutional spending cap.
Last month, central bank chief Roberto Campos Neto reiterated concerns about the spending program planned by Lula’s administration, saying it had not been explained well and was creating uncertainty.
Copom officials are worried this could add to other factors in pushing up inflation again after a steep reduction to a yearly rate of 6.5% in October from more than 12% at the start of 2022.
The official inflation target for next year is 3.25% with a margin of plus/minus 1.5 percentage points. For 2022, the goal is 3.5% with the same margins. Economists expect consumer prices to rise 5.91% this year, according to a central bank poll.
In the Reuters survey, expectations for future rate cuts were already more modest than in October, pointing to less monetary accommodation ahead.
The Selic was seen falling to 13.0% in the third-quarter of next year, compared to 12.25% previously. By the end of 2023, it was forecast at 11.50% versus 11.0% in the survey conducted in October.
(Reporting and Polling by Gabriel Burin in Buenos Aires; Editing by Mark Potter)