BRIC Watch: Brazil May Keep Falling

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This year continues to be a miserable one for investors who want to believe in emerging markets like Brazil, the land that offers hopes and dreams but little in the way of market gains. Brazil’s benchmark BOVESPA Index is down about 12.3% for the year and searching for a bottom. That is a worse performance than Japan’s Nikkei 225 index, which down 12.1% this year. Admittedly, things could be worse: Russia’s Micex Index is down 17%.

As 24/7 Wall Street noted on January 16, Brazil has been a downer for investors for a lot of reasons. Inflation is nearly 6% a year, amid one of the worst droughts in 40 years, and food prices are jumping. (The drought is why coffee futures are up 86% this year alone.) The central bank has pushed its benchmark interest rate to an eye-popping 10.75%. Taxes are high.

The World Cup soccer competition that starts in June and the 2016 summer Olympic games are causing stresses in Rio de Janeiro. The infrastructure required may not be adequate in time for the Olympics. So, what is the outlook and potential for the key American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) and exchange traded funds (ETFs) ahead?

The iShares MSCI Brazil Capped (NYSEMKT: EWZ) ETF, probably the easiest way to play Brazil, is down 12.2% at $39.27, against a 52-week trading range of $38.00 and $44.88. It tracks the BOVESPA Index. The Market Vectors Brazil Small-Cap ETF (NYSEMKT: BRF), which tracks smaller-cap issues, is off 12.3% to $26. Its trading range is $25.87 and $42.33.

The ADRs of Brazil’s giant oil company, Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (NYSE: PBR), better known as Petrobras, are down more than 24% at $10.41. The trading range is $10.30 and $19.65. Static oil prices, high labor costs and the government’s ability to set the prices it charges have driven investors away. The ADRs once traded as high as $50.

Banco Bradesco S.A. (NYSE: BBD), one of Brazil’s key banks, is down 13% to $11.23, against a trading range of $1.23 to $17.79.

Vale S.A. (NYSE: VALE), one of the world’s top diversified miners, is down nearly 18% to $12.52 in New York. It has been hurt not just by its homeland but by the Chinese slowdown. The trading range is $12.29 and $18.55.

BRF S.A. (NYSE: BRFS) should be safe on the surface, as a meat-producing and dairy giant. Apparently being defensive does not help either. At $18.64, the ADRs are down 10.7%. The 52-week range is $16.48 to $26.35.

There is an exception: Embraer S.A. (NYSE: ERJ), Brazil’s well-respected maker of commercial jets. The ADRs were at $33.54 on Friday, or up 4.2% for the year. The trading range is $28.31 to $39.47.

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