Following the MXN rough start of the year, which saw the Mexican currency tumble to its lowest level ever, the central bank stepped into the FX market this morning by selling about $1 billion USD spot, hoping to break the destabilizing MXN relentless depreciation trend. According to the central bank market operations manager, the authorities are not just seeking to stabilize but to “strengthen the Peso”. Putting the recent move in the peso in context, the MXN's Real Effective Exchange Rate (REER) has depreciated 41% since mid-2013 and is now at its weakest level in more than 20 years.
In fact, the only time the REER was weaker than it is currently was in the aftermath of the ravaging 1994-1995 "Tequila" economic and banking crisis. That is, the current MXN weakness is unprecedented outside the grip of a major crisis and is also visibly weaker than the level reached during the 2008-09 GFC. There is just one problem: so far they have failed dramatically, with the peso sliding ever since the intervention, and moments ago almost filling the entire gap. To be sure, one can't really blame Banxico for intervening: with the local population, of which over half lives in poverty, angry and protesting the recent "Gasolinazo", or 20% increase in the price of gas, the crashing currency is sure to send many other prices, especially of imported goods, through the roof while sending much of the population over the edge.
Which is why Goldman's Alberto Ramos agrees that the central bank had to do something: "In our assessment, some FX market intervention at this juncture is justified since market liquidity conditions became somewhat tighter, the MXN entered overshooting territory (excessively undervalued) and from current levels, significant additional exchange rate weakness, while making exporters even more competitive, can threaten two valuable public goods: price and local financial market stability. A very weak currency can have significant medium-term costs for the broader economy as it is likely to add pressure on inflation and wages (which would over time reduce the cost-competitiveness of the Mexican exporters) and prompt to a tighter monetary stance. Overall, higher inflation/wages and higher rates would be a clear negative shock to the non-tradable sectors of the Mexican economy, for they would not enjoy the exporters (tradable sectors) benefit of a weak currency. So much for a "brave new world" in which global trade imbalances can be resolved…