Record Inflows to Brazil Equity Funds Defy Fleeing Foreigners

(Bloomberg) -- Investors are pouring money into Brazil’s equity funds at the fastest pace in at least a decade, helping fuel the region’s best performing stock gauge as record-low interest rates on bonds spur the hunt for more lucrative securities.

Brazilian equity funds have seen a net inflow of 47.7 billion reais ($11.5 billion) this year through September, which would be the highest total for any year since Brazil’s capital markets association began tracking the data in 2006. That’s happened even as foreign investors pulled cash out of the market.

“Lower rates are leading to growing inflows to equity funds, but this move is just getting started,” said Marcos Peixoto, the co-head of equities at Sao Paulo-based XP Asset Management, who helps oversee about 6 billion reais. “It’s a trend that will last for years.”

Record Inflows to Brazil Equity Funds Defy Fleeing Foreigners

The benchmark Ibovespa equity index has gained 20% since the beginning of the year as the Brazilian government moved forward with an overhaul of the country’s social security system -- a key item in President Jair Bolsonaro’s effort to put finances on a more sustainable footing. As tame inflation allows the central bank to cut interest rates, Brazilians are taking their money from government bonds and low-yielding savings accounts to invest with hedge funds and equity funds.

The enthusiasm for equities isn’t universal. Unlike locals, foreign investors have pulled about 4.1 billion reais out of Brazil stocks this year taking into account both primary and secondary markets, according to data from Brazil’s stock exchange. Excluding inflows from equity offerings, the outflow jumps to 30 billion reais -- with a 9.9 billion-real withdrawal in the first two weeks of October.

Record Inflows to Brazil Equity Funds Defy Fleeing Foreigners

Foreigners “haven’t yet re-risked their Brazil exposure,” said Morgan Harting, a portfolio manager at AllianceBernstein in New York. “That’s a combination of global portfolios just being more defensively positioned and some skepticism about how much more room to run there is in Brazil, particularly since the headline GDP growth rate still seems pretty sluggish.”

Economic activity indicators have produced mostly negative surprises this year. Analysts on average now see gross domestic product expanding just 0.9% in 2019, down from a forecast of 2.5% at the start of the year.

“I’m very optimistic on the foundation being laid for future growth,” said Will Pruett, a money manager at Fidelity who is overweight Brazil stocks within Latin America and manages $542 million. “For others in the market, it may take more tangible evidence, such as a GDP pick up.”

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