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Markets

Brazil's real plunges as unemployment soars, set for best month in 2021

  • Real jumps 4% in April, best month since November.
  • Unemployment in Brazil soars to record highs.
  • Mexican economy grows 0.4% in 1st quarter, beats expectations.
30 Apr 2021

Brazil's real dropped on Friday as unemployment jumped to record levels and a spike in coronavirus deaths dented sentiment, although expectations of interest rate hikes and a weak dollar led the currency to gain most among its Latin American peers in April.

The real dropped 1.3% after unemployment soared to a record 14.4 million in the three months through February, statistics agency IBGE said.

Brazil on Thursday became the second country to pass 400,000 COVID-19 deaths after the United States, and experts warned the daily toll could remain high for several months due to slow vaccinations and loosening social restrictions.

"The COVID outbreaks in India and Brazil and the recent slip in global mobility might inject some caution or pause the risk rally, especially if data starts to miss expectations," said Mark McCormick, global head of FX strategy at TD Securities.

However, the real was set to record its highest monthly gain since November last year, led by a weakening dollar, strong iron ore prices and as expectations of high inflation pointed to more interest rate hikes.

MSCI's index of Latin American currencies was down 0.8% on Friday, but gained for a fifth straight week, and rose nearly 3.3% this month, its best performance since December last year.

Latam stocks gained 4.4% in April in their best month since December.

Mexico's peso dropped 0.6%, while a jump in economic growth in the first quarter based on a preliminary estimate from the national statistics agency helped prevent further losses.

The Colombian peso dropped 0.3% ahead of a central bank meeting later on Friday when the bank is expected to leave its benchmark interest rate unchanged as part of an expansive monetary policy while also evaluating the country's economic recovery and inflationary outlook.

Most other Latin American currencies also dropped against the dollar with the Chilean and Argentine pesos down 0.5% and 0.1% respectively, while the Peruvian sol eased 0.2%

Peruvian front-running left-wing presidential candidate Pedro Castillo was rushed to a clinic in Lima on Thursday due to a "respiratory" illness, forcing him to suspend campaigning, the candidate's party said on social media.

The dollar index, a measure of the greenback's value against a basket of its major peers, rose 0.4%, leaving it set to end the week flat, although still down 2.56% for the month as a whole.