Exchange traded funds tracking Brazil, Latin America’s largest economy, were previously darlings of the risk-on commodities and emerging markets trade. With all of those themes out the window, at least for now, Brazil ETFs have been getting hit from all angles. Unfortunately for investors looking for exposure to the “B” in BRIC, the ETF damage has not been limited to the iShares MSCI Brazil Capped Index Fund (NYSEArca: EWZ).
ETFs that hold Brazilian debt or that track the country’s currency, the real, have not been immune to investors’ distaste for Brazil. That list includes the WisdomTree Brazilian Real Fund (NYSEArca: BZF). In a bid to bolster the real, Brazil removed the financial transaction tax, or “IOF,” on foreign purchases of government bonds and other fixed-income instruments earlier this month. [Brazil ETFs Lower After Removal of Financial Tax]
The 6% IOF tax prevented the real from quickly appreciating in what appeared as a tool in the latest so-called currency war to fend off against loose monetary policies and quantitative easing measures. The move had not yield much fruit as BZF proceeded to trade slightly lower over the past five days, but the ETF did get a decent boost on Thursday.
At a time when EWZ and Brazilian stocks are being taken to the woodshed, the central bank there is joining its counterparts in other emerging markets to prop up a faltering currency. Brazil’s central bank has been intervening in the swaps market in recent days in an effort to mute volatility and prevent further declines for the real, Joe Leahy and Samantha Person report for the Financial Times.
Brazil’s efforts to allow more U.S. dollars into the market to prop up the real come after the country raised interest rates in a bid to fight inflation, now running near 6.5%, one of the highest rates in the developing world. The country has taken other measures to save the real from further losses, such as scrapping a tax on foreign bond buys last week. [Rate Hike Respite For Indonesia ETFs]
Depending on one’s point of view, BZF could be an interesting play. With the real sitting near four-year lows against the greenback, a case can be made that the currency and ETF are due for a bounce. The other side of the argument is that Brazil’s economy is grappling with high inflation, rising unemployment and falling commodities, a confluence of factors that could keep pressuring the real and Brazilian equities.
WisdomTree Brazilian Real Fund
ETF Trends editorial team contributed to this post.