* Mantega: A real weaker than 2/dlr is “here to stay”
* Mantega’s comments briefly added to real’s losses
* Central bank intervenes to reverse plunge
* Intervention hints Mantega, central bank in tug of war
By Daniela Ades
SAO PAULO, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Brazil’s exchange rate is at a reasonable though not totally satisfactory level, Finance Minister Guido Mantega said on Friday, in an indication that the government wants the real to weaken further to propel an incipient recovery.
Mantega told a crowd of business leaders in Sao Paulo that a real weaker than 2 per U.S. dollar is “here to stay.” His comments added to losses in the local currency, which had already pierced the level of 2.11 per dollar for the first time in 3-1/2 years earlier in the session.
The central bank stepped in quickly after that to prevent the real from depreciating further by calling a traditional currency swap auction. The announcement drove the real back to below the 2.10-per-dollar mark, which is widely seen as the limit of an informal trading band.
The real gained 0.35 percent to trade at 2.09 per dollar at 12:08 p.m. (14:08 GMT).
The central bank’s intervention left investors wondering if there was a tug of war between Mantega and central bank chief Alexandre Tombini, who a day earlier said the monetary authority was ready to provide liquidity to the market to prevent the real from weakening too much, too fast.
“The exchange rate is at a reasonable level, not totally satisfactory, but reasonable,” Mantega said.
A depreciated real is already having a positive impact on the Brazilian economy, Mantega added, with imports falling and exports of manufactured goods starting to rise, even in an international scenario that is “totally unfavorable.”
The Brazilian economy is expected to grow a meager 1.5 percent this year after hitting a two-decade high of 7.5 percent in 2010. Although local activity is improving, a still weak industrial sector has cast doubts over the recovery’s strength.
Mantega also said inflation in Brazil is under control, which could allow for more expansionist monetary policy in Latin America’s largest economy.