Mexican peso hit by 'Trump factor'

Donald Trump is partly blamed for the Mexican peso's free fall.
Donald Trump is partly blamed for the Mexican peso's free fall. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

MEXICO CITY (AFP) - Donald Trump has angered Mexicans with his anti-immigrant rhetoric and caused political headaches for their president. Now the White House hopeful is partly blamed for the national currency's free fall.

The currency dropped to a record 20 pesos to the dollar on Monday (Sept 19), a 2.15 per cent fall from last week when it closed at 19.57, according to banking firm Banamex.

Fears over a possible interest rate hike by the US Federal Reserve are cited as a key factor for the peso's drop, although analysts now believe the Fed will keep it unchanged when it meets on Tuesday and Wednesday.

But analysts also point to concerns over Trump's chances in the US election against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton after recent polls showed a tight race ahead of the Nov 8 election.

"This 'Trump effect' causes much concern for Mexico's future," Raul Feliz, analyst at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching think thank in Mexico City, told AFP.

Feliz cited Trump's threat to deport millions of undocumented migrants from the United States, renegotiate a trilateral free trade deal with Mexico and Canada, and make Mexico pay for a giant border wall.

"This would have a very negative impact and, facing this anxiety, investors are taking shelter behind the dollar," the analyst said.

The real estate tycoon has threatened to cut off billions of dollars sent home by Mexican immigrants in order to force their homeland to pay for the wall.

Remittances are among Mexico's main sources of revenue along with oil, tourism and exports.

"There is also fear of less currency coming in because of Trump's threat to freeze remittances," said Raymundo Tenorio Aguilar, director of economic studies at the Monterrey Institute of Technology.

Finance Minister Jose Antonio Meade has suggested that the US election, in general, is playing a role against the peso.

"We are not sure that it is an issue linked to Trump or not," Meade said, adding that it could be due to "the doubts that are always generated by the possible result of the election in the country that is our main trade partner."

President Enrique Pena Nieto appointed Meade, a former foreign and social development minister, as finance minister on Sept 7 after Luis Videgaray resigned from the post.

Videgaray's resignation was widely seen as the result of his role in organising Trump's unpopular visit to Mexico on Aug 31.

Next Monday's first presidential debate between Clinton and Trump could be another influential day for the peso.

"If the Fed doesn't raise the rate and Clinton wins the debate conclusively, the foreign exchange market could calm down," Feliz said.

"But if the opposite happens, the peso will continue to depreciate and a new intervention by the Bank of Mexico will be necessary," he said, referring to the central bank, which suspended dollar auctions to prop up the peso in February.

Experts noted that Mexico faces other domestic issues, including the falling price of oil, an industry that represents one-fifth of public finances, high debt and government budget cuts.

"We have structural problems and together everything generates a great disorder, and we don't expect the Bank of Mexico to intervene to adjust the market," Tenorio Aguilar said.

The central bank's deputy governor, Manuel Sanchez, said last week that, in addition to fears over a US rate hike, the peso could be affected by Mexico's weak fiscal position, disappointment over the country's lower-than-expected growth and "uncertainty (over) the forthcoming US presidential election and its implications."