Pemex, Mexico’s over-indebted, money-losing state-owned oil giant, appears to be in a state of terminal decline. To survive, it needs some last-minute reprieve or miracle…For the broader Mexican economy, Pemex’s woes are just part of the problem. With the overseas market for Pemex’s oil shrinking,…while the company’s production continues to crumble, Mexico will depend even more on its manufacturing sector but that too, is showing serious signs of strain.
Mexico’s oil exports down 45%!
The latest point of consternation [for Pemex] is the catastrophic performance of the company’s exports. Even by recent standards, the numbers make for dismal reading. In the first quarter of 2016, Mexico’s oil exports totaled $2.67 billion, compared to $5 billion in the same period last year — almost a 45% drop! It’s the company’s worst export performance since the first quarter of 2002. This is a function of the oil price plunge and the deteriorating oil production in Mexico. At this rate, Pemex won’t have an export market left to speak of, especially with U.S. demand for Mexican oil slipping 18% in January and February alone.
If you step back a little further in time, you get an even starker picture of the sheer scale of the carnage. In 2011, when the price of Brent crude averaged over $100, Pemex’s export revenues hit a historic peak of $49 billion, working out at a monthly average of $4.11 billion. In the first quarter of 2016 the monthly average was just $893 million. That’s a plunge of 78.2%.
How the mighty are fallen! Pemex is now dependent on state aid to meet its day-to-day needs. The bailout has already started but it will only feed a new round of plunder.
Mexico’s imports of oil and gas continue to grow
To make even matters worse, as Pemex’s exports dwindle, Mexico’s imports of oil and gas continue to grow. Mexico imports more gasoline, diesel, and natural gas than it exports in crude oil. Petroleum accounted for two-thirds of last year’s $14.5 billion trade deficit, which was the widest since 2008.
Mexico’s manufacturing goods exports down 6.5%
For the broader Mexican economy, Pemex’s woes are just part of the problem. With the overseas market for Pemex’s oil shrinking at such a fast rate while the company’s production continues to crumble, Mexico will depend even more on its manufacturing sector but, that too, is showing serious signs of strain.
Exports of manufactured goods, which account for 90% of Mexico’s total exports, fell 6.5% in March from the year-earlier month, according to the government statistics institute. Despite a 3.8% drop in imports, Mexico’s balance of payments deficit soared to $4.11 billion between January and March. It’s the highest first-quarter deficit since 1994, the year of Mexico’s Tequila Crisis, which unleashed a wave of economic instability throughout Latin America and triggered an unprecedented bailout of Mexico’s financial sector, although much of the money ended up saving Wall Street investment banks, including Goldman Sachs.
Today, Mexico’s problems are of a quite different nature. Its most important export sector, the automotive industry, appears to be suffering the consequences of gradually tightening demand, particularly in the U.S., where consumer optimism about the economy is on the wane.
Mexican automotive exports down 10.4% year-on-year
In the first quarter of 2016, Mexican automotive exports witnessed a 10.4% year-on-year contraction, its worst performance since August 2009, when the global economy was struggling to stay afloat after the near-collapse of the U.S. financial sector. In the first three months of this year Mexican exports to the U.S. shrank by 7.8%, while exports to other markets fell by a startling 24%.
Mexico has suffered the double whammy of higher prices at home and weaker exports abroad
Naturally, none of this should be happening — at least not according to most economists. After all, despite staging a recent recovery, the Mexican peso has weakened considerably since mid-2014, which should have made the country’s exports more competitive. The problem is that a big chunk of Mexico’s exports — as much as two-thirds, according to London-based research firm Capital Economics — are intermediate goods that don’t get an immediate boost from a weaker peso, unlike final goods such as cars or TV sets bought by U.S. consumers.
On the contrary, because most of these intermediate goods eventually end up in US-produced consumer products, the general appreciation of the dollar and its negative impact on US exports appear to have had a commensurate effect on Mexican exports to the US. In other words, Mexico has suffered the double whammy of higher prices at home and weaker exports abroad.
Whither goeth the US, so goeth Mexico
Even more pain could be in store for Mexican exporters if the U.S. economy continues to slow or, God forbid, enters a recession. Despite Mexico’s free-trade agreements with 46 countries, including the European Union and Japan, about 80% of its $380 billion annual exports go to the US. Whither goeth the US, so goeth Mexico. For the last few years, this has been a significant boon, as the U.S. economy outperformed most of its peers – one of the cleanest dirty shirts, so to speak – but that could all be set to change.