A agência de classificação de risco Standard & Poor's rebaixou nesta segunda-feira (24) a nota de crédito soberano do Brasil, que reflete a confiança de investir no país, de "BBB" para "BBB-". A S&P também mudou a perspectiva do rating de negativa para estável.
A classificação de "BBB-" ainda mantém o país com grau de investimento, que recomenda o país como destino de aplicações, mas é o último degrau para perder esse posto. O fato de ter mudado a perspectiva para estável indica que a S&P não deve fazer novos rebaixamentos no curto prazo.
A Standard & Poor's apontou em sua justificativa sinais pouco claros da política econômica do governo da presidente Dilma Rousseff, que enfrenta um frágil quadro fiscal, e também a desaceleração do crescimento do país.
Em comunicado, a S&P disse que o rebaixamento do rating reflete a combinação de "derrapagem orçamentária" em meio às perspectivas de "crescimento moderado nos próximos anos", baixo volume de investimentos, "capacidade restrita" a ajustar a política antes das eleições presidenciais de outubro e "algum enfraquecimento das contas externas do país".
Sinalizações mistas de políticas pelo governo, com implicações negativas para a credibilidade das contas fiscais e da política econômica, além de perspectiva fraca para o crescimento nos próximos dois anos, continuam pesando sobre a flexibilidade das políticas e do perfil de desempenho do país, destacou a agência.
Em nota, o Ministério da Fazenda classificou a decisão da S&P de "contraditória com a solidez e os fundamentos do Brasil" e "inconsistente com as condições da economia brasileira".
O revés para o governo acontece duas semanas após o ministro da Fazenda, Guido Mantega, ter recebido a visita de uma representação da agência de classificação, que veio ao país colher dados sobre a situação econômica brasileira e contas públicas.
Apesar de o governo ter anunciado cortes de gastos recentemente, a S&P aponta que o Brasil pode ter dificuldades em alcançar sua meta de superávit primário (economia para pagar os juros da dívida pública) de 1,9% do PIB.
Primeira revisão para baixo desde 2002
Esta é a primeira vez desde 2002 que uma das três principais agências de rating piora a classificação do país, destaca a Reuters.
A S&P foi a primeira agência que qualificou o Brasil como país com grau de investimento "BBB-", em 2008, e chegou a elevar sua qualificação para "BBB" em novembro de 2011, mas, no ano passado, tinha colocado a nota em perspectiva negativa, em decorrência do crescimento fraco e dos gastos do governo.
A agência também é a primeira a rebaixar a nota do Brasil para o primeiro degrau do grau de investimento. Pela Moody´s e Fitch, o rating do Brasil permanece no segundo degrau desde 2011.
O Brasil atingiu grau de investimento peça primeira vez em abril de 2008, durante o governo Lula. Na ocasião, o petista comemorou o marco, afirmando que o grau de investimento significa que o Brasil é um país sério e mundialmente respeitado.
Rebaixamento era esperado por parte do mercado
Embora a expectativa de parte do mercado fosse de que a mudança só viesse depois das eleições de outubro, o economista do Instituto de Estudos para o Desenvolvimento Industrial (IEDI) e ex-secretário de política econômica do Ministério da Fazenda, Júlio Gomes de Almeida, destaca que o rebaixamento da nota do Brasil "já era esperado".
Confira abaixo a íntegra da nota da agência em inglês:
On March 24, 2014, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services lowered its long-term foreign currency sovereign credit rating on Brazil to 'BBB-' from 'BBB' and its long-term local currency rating to 'BBB+' from 'A-'. The outlook on our long-term credit ratings is stable.
We lowered the short-term foreign currency credit rating to 'A-3' from 'A-2', while the short-term local currency rating is unchanged at 'A-2'. The transfer and convertibility assessment was lowered to 'BBB+' from 'A-'.
Our 'brAAA' national scale rating on Brazil remains unchanged, and the outlook on the national scale rating remains stable.
The downgrade reflects the combination of fiscal slippage, the prospect that fiscal execution will remain weak amid subdued growth in the coming years, a constrained ability to adjust policy ahead of the October presidential elections, and some weakening in Brazil's external accounts. Low growth prospects reflect both cyclical and structural factors, including investment as a share of GDP of only 18% in 2013 and a slowdown in growth in the labor
force. Combined, these factors underscore the government's diminished room for maneuver in the face of external shocks.
The credit ratings on Brazil reflect its well-established political institutions, broad commitment to policies that maintain economic stability, and its large and diversified economy. Following deterioration in the current account deficit and some moderation in foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows, net external debt levels are rising but remain manageable. Brazil's general government debt burden is high, but its composition remains solid (denominated overwhelmingly in local currency and mostly at fixed- or inflation-linked rates). These factors underpin the low-investment-grade ratings.
Brazil's fiscal deterioration during the past several years includes somewhat higher deficits as a result of a lower primary (or non-interest) fiscal surplus and ongoing off-budget activities. Credibility around the conduct of fiscal policy systematically weakened as the government exempted various spending and revenue items from the fiscal target, in addition to lowering the target itself over time. Persistent use of state-owned banks, financed by "below the line" funding from the Treasury, also undermined policy credibility and transparency. Fiscal execution, such as that in 2013, has become more reliant on receiving "non-current" or one-off revenues and adjusting the timing of spending outlays to meet official fiscal targets.
Policy signs ahead of the October presidential election to stem the fiscal slippage this year are mixed. In addition, so are prospects for adjustment after the election, in our view. Despite the recent budgetary reprogramming effort that cuts some spending from the 2014 budget passed by Congress, it will be difficult to achieve the formal 1.9% of GDP primary surplus target
without recourse to "one-off adjustments," in our view, given low growth and the continuation of some tax exemptions. The implementation of the recently announced measures to manage losses in the electricity sector (given low rainfall and reliance on high cost thermal energy) with a limited increase in electricity tariffs in an election year may be challenging. Whereas these
measures are in line with recent history of quasi-fiscal activity, the government appears to be reducing the pace of lending from state-owned banks, and with it "below the line" financing for them from the Treasury; if that remains on track, over time it could be supportive for the rating. However, other downside fiscal risks stem from the performance of state and local governments (whose shortfalls are no longer compensated for by the federal government) and the impending ruling from the Supreme Court regarding savings accounts (that may result in the federal government having to fund losses in the banking sector). Combined these factors could put additional pressure on Brazil's future fiscal performance.
We expect low growth in Brazil to persist over the next several years with real GDP expanding by 1.8% in 2014 and 2% in 2015. This outlook reflects some modest improvement in exports this year, and an expected stronger contribution in 2015, from lagged effects of real depreciation. Following many delays, the government's important concession program is slowly advancing and should provide some support for investment. That said, we still expect overall private-sector investment to remain lackluster given persistent negative business sentiment and a wait-and-see attitude associated with the election, the risk of energy rationing, and the lagged effects of the 350-basis-point rise in the monetary policy rate since April 2013. We expect the pace of household spending to be constrained by higher consumer indebtedness and more moderate job creation and real wage gains. The prospect for at least some additional fiscal and monetary tightening after the elections (assuming some
electricity and energy prices increases) is likely to keep growth little changed next year, in our view. We expect general government debt, net of liquid assets (not including international reserves), to rise somewhat in 2014 and 2015 to around 44% to 45% of GDP. We project that the general government deficit will rise toward 3.9% of GDP, from 3.2% in 2013, on a lower primary surplus result relative to 2013 and the government's target, and higher interest rates, with interest as a percent of revenues over 13%. We expect some decline in the deficit
beginning 2015 reflecting prospects for a somewhat tighter fiscal policy following the election. However, there is uncertainty on its size and scope. The larger change in general government debt to GDP vis-à-vis the deficit incorporates "below the line" fiscal spending, besides some fluctuations in central bank repo operations.
We expect Brazil's external vulnerability will rise somewhat over the next several years. In 2013, FDI did not fully cover Brazil's current account deficit; we expect this trend to continue, with narrow net external debt set to rise to over 20% of current account receipts from an average 10% over the past five years. Our estimates of external debt are calculated on a residency basis. They include nonresident holdings of locally issued Brazilian real-denominated government debt estimated at about US$139 billion (47% of current account receipts) in 2013. They do not include, however, debt raised offshore by Petrobras and upstreamed in the form of FDI to the head office. That said, despite the wider current account deficit, more than 3.5% of GDP, Brazil has comparatively low external financing needs vis-à-vis some peer issuers owing in large part to its high level of international reserves.
Our higher local currency rating on Brazil reflects the credibility of its monetary policy, its floating exchange-rate regime, and the depth of its capital markets.
The stable outlook reflects our view that Brazil's institutional and policy framework coupled with its fiscal and external balance sheet strengths afford it sufficient room for maneuver and the ability to withstand external shocks consistent with a low-investment-grade rating.
We could raise the ratings following more consistent policy initiatives to strengthen the fiscal accounts or outline a more proactive reform agenda to put medium-term growth on stronger trajectory. This would likely generate greater private-sector confidence and higher investment and afford the government more fiscal and monetary flexibility.
We could lower the ratings following a sharp deterioration in Brazil's external and fiscal indicators that is coupled with an unraveling of Brazil's past commitment to pragmatic policy. Notwithstanding the downgrade, we see Brazil's broad macroeconomic policy framework as supportive of its investment-grade ratings.