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Latin America Should See Moderate Growth

Aug. 7, 2013
MAPI forecasts manufacturing gains of 2.1% in 2013, 2.8% in 2014

After posting anemic growth of 0.1% in 2012, Latin America’s manufacturing sector is poised for moderate growth through 2014, according to a report from The Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation’s (MAPI).

Latin America’s three largest economies—Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico—are responsible for more than 80% of the manufacturing output in the region, Fernando Sedano, Ph.D., MAPI economic consultant, points out. Therefore the report focused on these three economies.  

While overall manufacturing output in Latin America will advance by 2.1% in 2013, buoyed in part by Brazil’s carmaking industry and its cascading effects on Argentina, and by 2.8% in 2014, when Mexican factories are expected to go back into stronger growth mode presuming benign U.S. economic conditions.

“Brazil’s manufacturing output rebound is aided by a host of tax breaks implemented in late 2012 intended to spur demand, deplete inventory, and drive production,” Sedano said. “Mexico’s short-term outlook continues to hinge heavily on the U.S. industrial cycle, but we remain confident that the rebound expected for later this year will continue in 2014.

“Although uncertainty reigns in Argentina, the automotive industry will reach record-high production levels this year in response to the elevated demand from Brazil and the domestic market.”

Brazil’s manufacturing activity (48.7% of MAPI’s regional index) stopped growing roughly three years ago and posted negative growth rates in the last six quarters. Its auto industry, however, showed strong 12.7% growth in the first quarter of 2013.

In addition, tax cuts on purchases of industrial goods are boosting demand, in turn lowering elevated inventory levels and suggesting upcoming production gains. MAPI forecasts Brazil will see 3.3% manufacturing growth in 2013 and 3.7% growth in 2014.

Mexico’s manufacturers (38.7% of the index) struggled early in 2013, affected by weak U.S. demand; as a result, growth will be limited this year. Recent INEGI (Mexico’s census agency) data, however, suggest activity is picking up. MAPI anticipates 1.7% manufacturing growth in 2013 and a 2.7% gain in 2014.

Argentina’s manufacturing prospects (12.6% of the index) in 2013 have been hampered by softer demand from Brazil, the destination of most of the country’s manufacturing exports, and by low consumer confidence levels. As in Brazil, though, an automotive upturn (19.1% gain from January through May 2013) should filter through key supplying industries. MAPI anticipates 2.3% growth this year but remains cautious in its outlook. Sedano notes that the forecast of a marginal 0.8% advance in 2014 takes into account the negative effects on growth that needed macroeconomic adjustments will bring about.

Looking at some specific industries, food and beverages—the largest industry in the region and one of the most stable—should grow by 1.9% in 2013 and 2.4% in 2014. The automotive sector is forecast to improve by 6.3% this year and 5.8% next year. Machinery and equipment is forecast to see growth of 5.3% in 2013 and 4.9% in 2014.

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