Monthly Archives: July 2015

Latin American currency: Colombia goes bananas

A good way to monitor Latin American currencies is against the Canadian dollar, rather than the US dollar. The USD, as world reserve currency, is mostly a measure of risk tolerance around the world. People fearing instability (still and despite it all) buy greenbacks. But the CAD, as the currency of a stable, developed, but resource-dependent country, is a nice comparison point for the Latin American currencies, as it cuts out a lot of the USD’s noise.

Against the CAD, the Colombian peso long tracked other currencies in the region, particularly the Peruvian nuevo sol and the Chilean peso. Latin American currencies 2010-2014

This first chart shows currencies against the CAD from 1 Jan 2010 to 1 Oct 2014. The Colombian peso (COP) is the red dotted line, green is Peru, navy blue is the Mexican peso, and fucsia is Chile. Up top, you see the Brazilian real and the Argentine peso doing their wacky and devaluatory deeds in red (solid line) and purple.

Here’s what the same currencies have looked like over the past calendar year:

Latin American currencies 1-year chart to 27 July 2015

This time, Argentina is down there with Peru and Chile, actually appreciating against the Canadian dollar. Mexico is drifting weaker, and Colombia is suddenly tracking Brazil in a big, painful devaluation. The are both big oil producers whose state-controlled companies were once stock market darlings. They are both economies that were overhyped circa 2011, and are now probably in an excessive backlash.

The upshot:

Latin American currencies 5-year chart to 27 July 2015Here’s the 5-year chart. Colombia has detached from its usual peers and is devaluing mightily.

The upshot for me, as a consumer of Colombian Harina P.A.N. precooked corn flour in Canada, is that a kilogram of this white powder has dropped from CAD 4 to CAD 3.3 over the past year.

Given what we already saw in 2014, I suspect Colombia will get a competitive advantage in the production of other white powders. Next year’s coca production reports will likely show Colombian output surging.


The lighter (heavier?) side of devaluation

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 12.45.25 PMTurns out it can be a good thing to have your biggest banknote worth only USD 0.20. That way nobody can carry a significant amount of money. Just too damn heavy.

Thieves in Caracas today hit a bank at the very moment when its vault was open, allowing them to get the unusually large haul of BSF 2.4 million, newspaper El Nacional reports. However they abandoned a sack with almost 1.8 million bolivars in it outside the bank, and got away with only 647,000. That’s about USD 1,440 at the market rate.


ALFA wants to spend billions of dollars on this

Thanks to the indispensable Otto Rock, always with his ear to the ground for community (ahem) issues, I hear about this situation in Puerto Gaitan.

Following several days of protest around the Pacific Rubiales offices in Puerto Gaitan, Meta, a group of about 60 indigenous people entered and took over the multinational’s premises. The natives of the community Vencedor-Pirirí arrived with clubs and bows to demand that Pacific fulfill agreements it had with them, including maintenance of the Puerto Gaitan-Rubiales road, schools, and health centers. The situation in the morning became tense over the situation of Pacific employees, so the police intervened.

A police officer goes on to explain that some workers were briefly held captive until the police moved in. The host comes back to say that several vehicles have been burned in the protest.

In other news, a pal in Bogotá says Pacific has already taken its name down from its headquarters building, and I heard third-hand that signs in the oilfields are being replaced with signs that don’t have Pacific’s name. If anyone could get me a photo of either of those, I’d be quite grateful. I’d be happy to post it here with or without attribution, your choice.