Shining Bright Amid Latin America’s Downturn

While Latin American economies are expected to shrink by roughly 1% this year, Mexico is slated to grow 2.2%.

Mexico City: the face of a regional standout

The expansion is driven by the country’s relatively lower dependence on commodities exports, especially oil; close ties to the US; relatively low inflation; and a stable macroeconomic framework, essential for investor confidence.

“[Mexico] has one of the most compelling stories of all emerging markets and offers attractive investment opportunities for long-term investors,” notes Armando Senra, head of the Latin America and Iberia region for BlackRock.Comprehensive structural reforms in the energy and infrastructure sectors will, over time, draw significant foreign and local investments, he adds.

In February 2016, oil-related exports made up only 4% of the GDP, while exports of manufacturing goods, principally to the US, accounted for roughly 83%. The country is a net exporter of crude oil and net importer of refined oil, Senra says. Being less reliant on commodities, Mexico avoided the boom-bust cycle that became particularly evident when China began decelerating.

“Most Latin American economies [were growing very rapidly] all the way to 2011, which created really tight labor markets,” said Alejandro Cuadrado, Latin American strategist at BBVA. “In [these markets] there is a higher demand for increasing wages, which generates inflation.” Mexico’s inflation at the end of 2015 was 2.1% versus the targeted 3%. Colombia exceeded the same target by 4 points, and Brazil hit double digits. Lower inflation lets governments keep interest rates steady, allowing credit markets to grow.

On the downside, lower oil revenue—around one-third of overall tax revenue—still forced government budget cuts and a 15% currency depreciation in the past year. State oil giant Pemex, facing a liquidity crunch, lost $6.6 billion in 2015. Moody’s recently lowered the company’s baseline credit assessment to b3 from ba3. But for now, Mexico seems able to buck the region’s negative growth trend.