Brazil could get S&P rating upgrade if deficit cut confirmed: lead analyst

BRASILIA (Reuters) – S&P Global Ratings could boost Brazil’s sovereign rating if a cut in its deficit as a percentage of GDP is confirmed, according to an interview published Thursday with the credit firm’s lead analyst the country.

South America’s largest economy needs to see reduced debt, higher economic growth and continued structural reforms in order to reclaim the investment grade rating it lost in 2015, S&P analyst Livia Honsel also told Folha S.Paulo.

That will take time to accomplish, she said, without giving a timeframe.

S&P rates Brazil’s foreign currency debt at BB-, three notches below investment grade. The agency changed its outlook to “positive” from “stable” this month.

Brazil’s public sector deficit shrank to 1.27% of GDP in the 12 months to October, its lowest in a year.

“If this deficit reduction is confirmed in the next quarters, it could lead us to revise the rating to BB,” Honsel told Folha.

“Another reason to hike the rating would be more strongly accelerating growth and a lower net external debt.”

Congressional approval of an overhaul to the pension system sent a good sign to investors, but further reforms are still needed, she said.

Plans for “administrative reform,” which changes rules for new public sector employees aimed at curbing federal expenditures, are essential, she said.

Honsel also listed giving Brazil’s central bank increased autonomy as a measure that should be carried out in the short term.

Asked if S&P sees political risk given right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro’s criticism of the media and Economy Minister Paulo Guedes – in the context of unrest in neighboring countries – evoking a dictatorship-era decree to suppress dissent, Honsel said the firm takes more of a macroeconomic view.

“There can be political noise that will interfere a bit in the discussion, but in general, we try to look at the whole and where the economy is headed.”

(Reporting by Jake Spring; editing by John Stonestreet)

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