Brazil's Rousseff tries to win over jittery investors at Davos
Jan 24 (Reuters) - Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff defended her administration's management of a struggling economy on Friday though stopped short of offering concrete steps to calm investor nerves in the midst of an emerging market sell-off. In what aides described as a major speech designed to regain foreign investors' trust at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Rousseff reiterated a commitment to balanced public finances and inflation targeting amid mounting investor criticism of her administration. "I want to emphasize that we will not be weak on inflation," Rousseff said. "On the other hand, fiscal responsibility is a basic principle of our vision for economic and social development." Rousseff's comments during her first visit to Davos come as investors turn increasingly pessimistic on the outlook for Brazil's economic future, with most economists expecting just 2.0 percent growth in 2014, according to a central bank poll. Brazil's benchmark Bovespa stock index has fallen 20 percent in the past 12 months, compared with an 8.6 percent loss in Mexico's IPC index and a 22.3 percent gain in the S&P 500 over the same period. Most investors have blamed the fall on broad concerns over economic fundamentals, erratic policy implementation and heavy-handed government meddling in the private sector. Rousseff assured foreign investors that Brazil was a safe environment, reiterating that contracts would be honored and that foreign investors have always been "treated well." "My government has adopted measures to strengthen that relationship further," she added. Rousseff made her speech in the midst of a global drop in emerging market assets as investors fret over the impact of slower growth in China and future U.S. monetary policy decisions. Brazil's currency, the real, has also weakened sharply in recent days, partly due to a rapid currency devaluation in neighboring Argentina, which could sap trade. "Today, the stability of our currency is a central value of our country," Rousseff said, highlighting recent central bank efforts to make the currency market more predictable through currency swap contracts. Rousseff, who is widely expected to run for re-election later this year, did not announce any economic reform measures in her speech. That may make it tougher to convince investors her administration is ready to make the changes many of them are demanding. The world's largest bond fund manager, Pacific Investment Management Co, known as Pimco, expressed concern about Brazil's deteriorating public finances in an investor note on Thursday. "The policy mix that has eroded confidence, distorted the local interest rate market, undermined the currency and injected credit risk premium into sovereign assets is readily fixable," wrote Michael Gomez, co-head of Pimco's emerging markets portfolio team. "Things could improve from here, if policymakers rethink their remedies for Brazil's challenges."
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