Peru: New measures on the table to halt sol’s rise
Having introduced a wide range of measures aimed at keeping the sol’s appreciation under control, policymakers in Peru are now considering additional ways of reducing the currency’s strength, including prepaying sovereign debt.
The dollar was worth PEN2.54 in January 2013, marking a record low for the US currency, before rebounding slightly against the sol in early April. While its recent depreciation spells good news for Peru, the sol’s strength remains a concern among policymakers who are keen to combat its rise as part of a broader bid to support a growing and thriving export industry. Last year, the sol was up 5.4% against the dollar.
The Central Reserve Bank of Peru (BCRP) has already adopted a number of strategies aimed at easing the sol’s appreciation. In March 2013, the BCRP increased reserve requirements for a fourth consecutive month, just weeks after the Superintendent of Banking, Insurance, and Pension Funds (SBS) introduced higher provision requirements for loans denominated in dollars. The measures are aimed at increasing the cost of dollar lending by raising interest rates for credit denominated in the currency, which should eventually lead to a fall in demand from consumers for dollar-denominated credit.
In April the BCRP increased the foreign investment limit for pension funds (AFPs) based in Peru from 34% to 36%. The measure, which will require pension funds to sell sols and buy dollars, is aimed at encouraging AFPs to invest more abroad, helping to ease appreciation. The impact of such a reform is likely to be limited, however, since AFPs generally look to maintain a small buffer between their legal operating limit for foreign investments and their actual investment level abroad.
The Central Bank has also regularly intervened in the currency market in a further attempt to stabilise the sol’s climb against the dollar, purchasing around $10.5bn between January and September 2012. Recently, the government began buying dollars in varying amounts daily in a bid to limit the opportunities for speculative investors profiting from predictable currency movements.
In a separate move, the BCRP recently said it was considering making early payments on some of its sovereign debt to tackle the sol’s appreciation. According to local news reports, the debt prepayment, which would not be the first made by Peru, could be valued between $1bn and $1.5bn. The country adopted the same tack in July 2007 when the Paris Club of Nations accepted a prepayment from Peru of $1.75bn on debt valued at $5.75bn.
Peru has to date stopped short of lowering the banks’ overnight lending rate, which would decrease the costs of credit in sols and lead to a depreciation in the currency, due to concerns voiced by leaders that such a move could push up inflation.
However, the measure is still an option while inflation remains within the 1-3% BCRP target. In January 2013, the BCRP told OBG that the bank would need confirmation that inflation was within the target range before implementing the move. Annual inflation stood at 2.45% in mid-March.
While stemming the sol’s rise forms a key component of Peru’s plans to support exports, to date, the industry appears unscathed by the currency’s appreciation.
Many analysts from across the banking and finance sectors told OBG during meetings held in January that the rising sol had yet to take a toll on exports. The export sector for non-traditional products grew in 2012, for example, and the sol’s appreciation has not made an impact on the real sector, the BCRP said.
While their observations bode well for exporters in the short term, analysts in Peru predict that given the US Federal Reserve’s near-zero interest rate policy, the dollar is unlikely to recuperate in the near future. The Peruvian sol is expected to finish 2013 at around 2.45-2.50 against the dollar, the local press reported, although some analysts anticipate that the rate could be nearer PEN 2.25.
Over time, protecting Peru’s exporters may well become a greater challenge as current US monetary policy digs in, and one that will require the BCRP to come up with increasingly creative ways of halting the sol’s appreciation.