Executive Briefings

Despite Bad News Most of the Year, Mexican Consumers Aren't Reluctant to Spend

Shares in Walmart, the American retailing behemoth, have dropped by a third so far this year. But those of Walmex, its separately listed Mexican arm, are up 30 percent. This shaft of sunlight is surprising, for the mood south of the border has generally been glum.

A series of outrages, starting in September last year with the disappearance of 43 student-teachers in the southern state of Guerrero, has sharpened Mexicans' mistrust of officialdom, undermined their faith in the rule of law and deepened their pessimism about the country's future. Walmex itself was at the centre of a scandal after reports in 2012 that it had bribed local officials to win permits to open new stores.

Yet its buoyant performance suggests that, although Mexicans are gloomy citizens, they are cheerful consumers. Retail sales (excluding new stores) increased 6.2 percent in the first nine months of this year after growing less than 1 percent in 2014 and barely at all the year before, according to ANTAD, a group that represents retailers. Walmex’s profits jumped by more than a fifth between the third quarter of 2014 and the same period this year. Crowded malls are a hopeful sign. The economy is “coming out of the doldrums”, says Damian Fraser of UBS, a bank. The push is coming partly from the United States, the huge market next door. More intriguingly, structural reforms introduced in 2013 by the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto may be starting to nudge the economy forward.

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A series of outrages, starting in September last year with the disappearance of 43 student-teachers in the southern state of Guerrero, has sharpened Mexicans' mistrust of officialdom, undermined their faith in the rule of law and deepened their pessimism about the country's future. Walmex itself was at the centre of a scandal after reports in 2012 that it had bribed local officials to win permits to open new stores.

Yet its buoyant performance suggests that, although Mexicans are gloomy citizens, they are cheerful consumers. Retail sales (excluding new stores) increased 6.2 percent in the first nine months of this year after growing less than 1 percent in 2014 and barely at all the year before, according to ANTAD, a group that represents retailers. Walmex’s profits jumped by more than a fifth between the third quarter of 2014 and the same period this year. Crowded malls are a hopeful sign. The economy is “coming out of the doldrums”, says Damian Fraser of UBS, a bank. The push is coming partly from the United States, the huge market next door. More intriguingly, structural reforms introduced in 2013 by the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto may be starting to nudge the economy forward.

Read Full Article