“BRAZIL is back in business,” proclaimed Abílio Diniz, chairman of BRF, a Brazilian pork and poultry giant, at a recent investor shindig. Really? The economy, mired in recession since mid-2014, is not expected to stir before the end of the year—and then only sluggishly. After rebounding in the first half of 2016, industrial production plummeted again in August. Retail sales fell by more than forecast. Firms expect to hire just 100,000 temporary workers in the run-up to Christmas, 3% fewer than last year’s already low tally. BRF’s own domestic operations are hardly a picture of health. Sales dropped by 5% in the second quarter, year on year (though this was offset by rising global revenues).

For all that, Mr Diniz is not alone in his optimism. Surveys point to rising confidence among bosses and consumers alike (see chart). Investors’ spirits are up—and with them the São Paulo stockmarket, which has returned to levels last seen in 2012. The real has strengthened by a third against the dollar since January.

The collective mood swing has less to do with the real economy, and more with realpolitik. In August the…Continue reading