On March 29, the government announced a new decree in the Official Gazette, increasing the financial-operation tax (IOF) on overseas loans—corporate loans and debt sold abroad by banks and companies. The tax was raised to 6% from 5.38% on international bond sales and extended to transactions with a maturity of up to 360 days from the previous 90-day limit. Brazil’s central bank said the increase was aimed at curbing foreign currency loans with a maturity longer than three months; which have grown around 39% since the end of 2008. In addition, the local newspaper Folha de S.Paulo, asserted that since January 2011, the inflows of U.S. dollars into the country had reached almost US$35 billion, reflecting an increase of 42% with respect to 2010’s total inflows.
March 8 marks 100 years since the first International Women’s Day. Over the past few decades, Latin America has made significant advances on gender equality. As proof of that trend, the rate of female participation in the labor force has increased to nearly 57% in 2009 from 35% in 1980. In addition, participation gains can be traced across all sectors: Less than 30% of the increase of women in the labor force is directly linked to the expansion of sectors traditionally dominated by women, such as education and health. Moreover, women’s earnings have increased by more than 10%, and their share of overall household income ranges from 30% in Costa Rica to over 60% in Jamaica. Compared with other regions, LatAm also has a higher rate of female entrepreneurship and a smaller gap between male and female entrepreneurs.
The PMI stayed above 50 in February, advancing 2.9% m/m seasonally adjusted (SA) to 54.6, after growing 1.3% m/m SA in January and 5% m/m SA in December. The index is 43% above the low of 38.1 reached in January 2009, but 5.5% below the high of 57.8 in January 2010. Solid domestic demand rather than external demand generated strong growth in new orders, pushing companies to increase output and hire workers. Inventories decreased rapidly, while average input costs increased at a marked pace.
As annual salary negotiations begin in Argentina, the country’s public and private sector unions in Buenos Aires and other major cities are demanding salary increases of more than 30%. These are above the controversial official inflation estimates (11% y/y in 2010) published by the National Statistics Bureau INDEC, as many unions question the data and expect greater inflationary pressure in 2011 given the upcoming presidential election in October. Quoted in the local press, several leading figures of the construction (UOCRA) and health unions (ATSA) said that the demands merely reflected the evolution of day-to-day prices. Most unions are demanding quadrennial salary adjustments to prevent deterioration in their real incomes, with inflation remaining on the upward trend.