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Brazil markets extend tumble on Treasury officials' exodus

10/22/2021 | 12:30pm EST

BRASILIA, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Brazil's currency and stocks extended losses on Friday following an exodus of senior Treasury officials after the government announced plans to ramp up spending ahead of next year's election.

The two most senior Treasury officials and their two deputies submitted their resignations on Thursday "for personal reasons," according to the Economy Ministry.

The benchmark Bovespa stock index fell more than 4% and the real weakened more than 1% against the U.S. dollar on Friday.

Late on Thursday, the president's allies in Congress won a victory in a lower house committee for their plan to raise a constitutional spending limit and stagger the government's court-ordered debts. That would make room for 84 billion reais ($14.7 billion) of extra spending next year, said the bill's sponsor.

With his popularity declining and a Senate inquiry calling for criminal charges over his handling of the pandemic, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has vowed to more than double payouts from the country's main welfare program to a monthly 400 reais.

On Thursday, Bolsonaro also promised a one-off 400 reais to some 750,000 truckers hit hard by the rising cost of diesel and threatening stoppages like one that left some gas stations in Minas Gerais state without fuel on Friday.

That proposal, which was not fully vetted by the economic policy team, had the four Treasury officials heading for the exits even before Congress moved to lift the spending cap, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The four officials have not made further comments on their reasons for resigning.

Economy Minister Paulo Guedes pulled out of a public forum on Friday, according to the supermarket association organizing the event, stoking market rumors about his future.

Two sources told Reuters around midday local time that the minister has not asked to step down.

Fiscal risks have led several economists to forecast an even more aggressive interest rate hike by the central bank next week, after raising rates by a full percentage point last month to fight inflation now in double digits.

Credit Suisse economists are now predicting an increase of 125 basis points, while UBS analysts forecast 150 basis points.

($1 = 5.6910 reais) (Reporting by Marcela Ayres Additional reporting by Gabriel Burin in Buenos Aires Writing by Brad Haynes Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

© Reuters 2021
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