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Why Brazilian Stocks Are Crashing

By Rich Smith - Mar 18, 2020 at 6:44PM

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Is President Bolsonaro not taking this crisis seriously enough?

What happened

Natura & Co (NYSE: NTCO); Banco Bradesco (BBD 2.57%); Petroleo Brasileiro (PBR 2.32%) (PBR.A 2.45%); Braskem SA (BAK 2.94%). American stocks imploded again today, but if you take a look at the stock-price performances of these four names, it's pretty clear that it's not just America: Brazil isn't doing much better.

Through close of trading Wednesday, shares of cosmetics and toiletries producer Natura slid 15.7%, banker Bradesco fell 16.8%, oil giant Petroleo Brasileiro dropped 20.2%, and chemicals maker Braskem crashed 31.7%.

Map of Brazil under a magnifying glass

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Coronavirus, it seems, has reached Brazil -- and the coronavirus-fueled stock market sell-off as well.

According to Johns Hopkins University, Brazil still has only passing exposure to the contagion -- 372 confirmed cases today, and only three deaths. But the Brazilian health minister warns that these "official" figures may not be accurate, and Brazil's numbers are certain to rise -- and is calling for stricter government controls to get ahead of the curve.

President Jair Bolsonaro, on the other hand, thinks coronavirus fears are bordering on "hysteria" and yesterday cast doubt on the need for "banning this and that ... to contain the spread." In Bolsonaro's view, "the economy has to function because we can't have a wave of unemployment" -- implying that Brazil may in fact not take drastic action to head off a wider outbreak.

Now what

Suffice it to say that "keep calm and quit carrying on so much about coronavirus" is not what investors wanted to hear today.

Seeing how quickly a handful of initial cases have ballooned into thousands of infections in other countries that didn't take the threat seriously, they're punishing Brazilian stocks for the Brazilian president's lackadaisical attitude to the contagion.

Until his attitude changes, I fear that investors' attitude won't either.

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Stocks Mentioned

Petroleo Brasileiro S.A. - Petrobras Stock Quote
Petroleo Brasileiro S.A. - Petrobras
$15.42 (2.32%) $0.35
Petroleo Brasileiro S.A. - Petrobras Stock Quote
Petroleo Brasileiro S.A. - Petrobras
$14.20 (2.45%) $0.34
Braskem S.A. Stock Quote
Braskem S.A.
$17.85 (2.94%) $0.51
Banco Bradesco S.A. Stock Quote
Banco Bradesco S.A.
$3.99 (2.57%) $0.10

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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