With the U.S., euro zone, and other major economies on an epic battle against debt, talks about Brazil, Russia, India, and China (collectively known as the BRIC countries or “The Big Four”) have been gaining traction.
To save you the effort of Googling “BRIC,” I’ll just tell you that the nickname gained popularity in the early 2000s when Pip Diddy was still sporting dreadlocks. Analysts predicted that these countries would turn into major players in the world economy by becoming the biggest suppliers of raw materials and manufactured goods.
But like all the other economies, the BRIC group is not without its problems. So how are the BRIC central banks responding to their challenges? Let’s take a look at each of them:
People’s Bank of China
Inflation brought about by the rapid expansion in the Chinese economy has gotten the PBOC hiking rates left and right in an effort to tame rising prices. As I mentioned in my article, the bank has already raised its reserve ratio requirement (RRR) for banks six times and hiked interest rates three times this year alone.
As if that’s not enough, there are rumors that the PBoC is getting creative in its monetary policy. Word on the FX-hood is that the central bank is buying government bonds in the open market to help ease inflation.
Today many believe that the bank’s aggressive stance towards inflation may already be taking a toll on economic growth. They pointed out that the Chinese economy grew at a slower rate of 9.5% in Q2 2011 compared to the 9.7% uptick it posted the year earlier.
Reserve Bank of India
It looks like the Chinese aren’t the only ones getting their groove on in warding off inflation! The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) hiked interest rates by 50 basis points on Tuesday, setting the official cash rate at 8%.
Despite that, very few believe that the central bank will shed its hawkish feathers anytime soon. Heck, RBI Governor Duvvuri Subbarao announced an upward revision to the bank’s inflation forecast for the year ending in March 2012 from 6% to 7%.
Central Bank of Brazil
Meanwhile, in South America, central bankers are getting real with the Brazillian real. Early this week the Central Bank of Brazil bought U.S. dollars in a second snap auction as the domestic currency reached its 12-year high against the dollar.
Currency traders have been stacking up on reals as the central bank has gotten on a hiking frenzy, raising rates for the fifth consecutive time last week to 12.5% as inflation soared to 6.75% in mid-July.
Although the central bank hinted that it would soon stop hiking rates, interest rate junkies remain skeptical if the bank’s efforts have been enough to pull down inflation to its target of 4.5%. In fact, analysts upwardly revised their forecast for consumer prices saying that it would rise 5.28% next year after initially estimating it at 5.20% a couple of weeks ago.
Central Bank of Russia
Unlike the other central banks, the CBR is taking a chill pill on its hawkishness. Last June 27 the central bank opted to keep its interest rates at 3.5%, while its refinancing rates are also left unchanged at 8.25%. As it turned out, the CBR was happy about Russia’s inflation rate, which had eased to 9.4% in June from its 9.6% figure in May.
Russia’s central bankers are also optimistic on the U.S. debt ceiling issue. CBR’s First Deputy Chairman Alexei Ulyukayev even expressed his confidence that an agreement would eventually be reached.
Of course, as a country with the third-largest foreign currency reserves and that trades almost all its commodities in dollars, I would think they have little choice but to be optimistic. But then again, Russia is one of the largest oil producers in the world, which hedges up their investments nicely.
With the dollar and other major currencies still being weighed down by concerns about the debt ceiling, it may be worth your while to pay attention to these currencies. Who knows, with their economies wrestling with inflation pressures, you may just earn a handful of pips from trading them!