June 6, 2019 / 12:18 PM / 6 months ago

U.S. tariff ultimatum throws Mexico peso into choppy waters: Reuters poll

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Mexico’s peso will navigate choppy waters in the near future, away from its recent stability, following U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on Mexican goods, a Reuters poll showed on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Mexican pesos are seen in this picture illustration August 3, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/Illustration/File Photo

The median of 19 forecasts in a survey compiled May 30-June 4 pegged the peso at 19.8500 in one year. This was 1.0% weaker than its value on Wednesday and 0.3% softer than May’s median.

“The impact on MXN has been an immediate depreciation of over 2%, and given the high uncertainty, we expect volatility to remain high,” Scotiabank said in a report. It projected the currency at 20.2390 per dollar in one year.

The dispersion of estimates around the one-month median was the highest since December - when President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office - indicating a significant lack of consensus about its immediate path.

However, the likelihood of further peso weakness on a U.S. tariff escalation was “seriously limited” by potential rate hikes from Mexico’s central bank to fight off any inflationary effects originated in the currency’s losses, Scotiabank added.

The unit had been trading relatively calmly since the start of 2019 until Trump’s vow last week to ratchet up tariffs on Mexican goods unless the flow of illegal immigrants across the southern border stopped.

Mexico’s foreign exchange market was the first to suffer the full impact of Trump’s threats, which shook assets globally and darkened a world economic landscape that already looked fragile due to an ongoing U.S.-China trade war.

Hinting at a potential tightening move by Mexico’s central bank at the next policy meeting on June 27, governor Alejandro Díaz de León said he would be on the alert for intensifying risk factors.

Diplomacy could also play a role in cooling currency tensions. Mexican officials said they thought an agreement could be reached with the U.S. at high-level talks in Washington.

REAL OUTLOOK SLIPS AGAIN

The outlook for Brazil’s real also receded as the median estimate for the currency slipped to reflect a softer value for the second time in three months, with strategists now expecting it to trade at 3.75 per dollar in one year.

Views for the real were affected by a new round of investor anxiety about President Jair Bolsonaro’s ability to get his reform agenda through Congress. The clock is ticking, but analysts are still positive.

“We are expecting a better political environment and the approval of a reasonable pension reform in the Chamber of Deputies in the third quarter,” said Rodrigo Nishida, an economist at LCA, a local consultancy.

In May, the real crossed 4.0 per dollar after market doubts over the economy added to fears related to Bolsonaro’s plans to overhaul pensions. It recovered at the end of the month on reassurances by the country’s central bank.

Answers to another question reflected a slightly optimistic change in sentiment toward the currency, as 6 of 11 strategists considered risks for the real skewed to the upside, compared to 9 of 11 leaning to the downside in May.

Forecasts for the Argentine peso conveyed a similar degree of tolerance to political trouble, with the currency estimated at 53.3 per dollar in one year - meaning no big devaluation is expected after October’s election.

Any run on the Argentine central bank’s reserves could deal a tough blow to the hard-pressed peso. “Uncertainty associated with the PASO (primaries of Aug. 11) could reactivate the demand for dollars,” said Juan Lezica at ACM consultancy.

Reporting by Gabriel Burin; additional reporting by Miguel Ángel Gutiérrez in Mexico City, Nelson Bocanegra in Bogotá and Jamie McGeever in Brasilia; Editing by Nick Zieminski

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