Market embraces Bolsonaro but doubts linger over his ability to pass reforms

Market embraces Bolsonaro but doubts linger over his ability to pass reforms

Capital Markets Economy & Policy Brazil

Brazil's B3 Bovespa stock exchange spiked almost four points on Monday morning after the marketplace welcomed a first round victory for right-wing presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro.

Conservative Bolsonaro garnered 46% of votes for the presidency while left-wing PT candidate Fernando Haddad finished second with 29.3% of votes. Centrist candidate and market darling Geraldo Alckmin of the PSDB came a distant fourth with just 4.8% of the vote.

Bolsonaro and Haddad will face-off in a second round vote on October 28 and an investment banker covering Brazil is confident the capital markets will comfortably price in a Bolsonaro victory for later this month.

"Most of us expected [Bolsonaro] to win but I think to get 46% was a surprise," he said of the first round result. "Now he only has to pick up 4% of Haddad's vote, which should make it easier to price in a Bolsonaro victory."

The market's broader concern will be whether the candidate will gain enough congressional support to push reforms through.

"Regardless of who gets elected, the new president will have to forge alliances in Congress to enable the approval of fiscal reforms - particularly pension reform - in order to address a fundamental weakness of Brazil’s credit profile," said Samar Maziad, a vice president and senior analyst at Moody's.

The polarized nature of this year's presidential election has left sources doubting whether Bolsonaro's PSL can establish a good working relationship with peers, and markets will rely on this to get reforms through Congress.

"If [Bolsonaro] gets congressional support there is a chance of consistency on both sides and hopefully that will lead to reforms," the banker said. "In Brazil, you cannot do much without the support of Congress."

Bolsonaro's popularity among the investor space is largely derived from his pick for finance minister, Paulo Guedes. Bolsonaro was reluctant to discuss economic policy throughout his campaign, but in picking economist Guedes, sources are confident market-friendly policies, including privatization and a push for economic reforms, will continue.

"He says what the market wants to hear, lower taxes and privatization, the complete opposite of the PT."