Despite March Comeback, Most Latin American Equity Markets Sustained Losses In Q1 2021

The first quarter was a tough one for equity markets in the region, as a stronger U.S. dollar and the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic weighed on performance. Despite a 3.1% gain in March, the S&P Latin America BMI lost 5.8% in USD in Q1 2021, while the S&P 500® gained 6.2%. At the country level, the story was mixed. Mexico and Chile finished the quarter in positive territory, while Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia all declined. Peru was nearly flat.

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The currency exchange rate plays an important role in the performance of regional indices. Given the strength of the U.S. dollar, returns measured in local currency were much better. In Q1, the S&P Brazil BMI lost 10.2% in USD but only 3.1% in BRL. Similarly, the S&P Colombia BMI lost 15.7% in USD but only 9.5% in COP. Peru had mixed results, with the S&P/BVL Peru General Index generating a nearly flat return in PEN (-0.7%), but a positive one in USD (2.6%). Chile’s and Mexico’s equity markets performed strongly in Q1, posting slightly higher gains in their respective local currencies than in USD terms. Argentina was the only market in the region for which returns in ARS and USD were negative. Therefore, the cumulative returns in local currency for Q1 of the S&P Latin America BMI (which excludes Argentina) was nearly flat, at -0.09%.

Let’s review some of the more interesting trends (in local currencies) that happened in each market. In Argentina, despite having a tough Q1, the flagship S&P MERVAL Index had strong gains for the one-, three-, and five-year periods with annualized returns of 96.8%, 15.5%, and 29.9%, respectively. It is worth mentioning that market volatility was the highest in this region.

Q1 2021 resulted in negative returns for most Brazilian equity indices, except for the S&P/B3 SmallCap Select Index (3.0%) and the S&P/B3 Low Volatility Index (1.0%). What was exceptional was the longer-term performance of the S&P/B3 High Beta Index, which gained 105.9%, 25.9%, and 39.6% for the one-, three-, and five-year periods, respectively. The S&P/B3 Ingenius Index, based on international technology-driven companies listed on NYSE or NASDAQ and on B3 as BDRs, continued to do well despite currency differences (11.0% BRL).

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