Market capitalizations in the LA-7 (Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay) are moderate in size by emerging market standards; however, continued growth and development will depend on improving liquidity conditions across the region. At the end of 2015, capitalization of LA-7 equity markets was 32 percent of regional GDP, while the value of domestically traded bonds outstanding was about 62 percent of GDP (Figure 6.1). In dollar terms, the largest bond and equity markets are in Brazil and Mexico. Despite solid market capitalizations, low trading volumes are a growing concern. Shrinking liquidity is attributed to deteriorating macroeconomic conditions, high transaction costs, and the outsized role of institutional investors and their buy-and-hold strategies.
Luc Eyraud, Ms. Diva Singh, and Mr. Bennett W Sutton
After a period of endemic economic and financial crises during the 1980s to 1990s, many Latin American countries opened up their previously closed economies to international financial institutions at the turn of the millennium, aiming to attract capital, gain technical expertise, and cushion themselves against regional instability. In some extreme cases, such as Mexico and Uruguay, the financial system came to be completely dominated by global banks, with few or no domestic banks remaining. In addition, their experience with financial crises prompted most Latin American countries to implement stricter financial regulations. The strategy of importing global institutions and know-how, together with tighter regulations, appeared to have served the region well: with the exception of the Argentine and Uruguayan crises of 2001–02, none of the largest Latin American banking systems have suffered a financial crisis in the new century. Even the global financial crisis of 2008–09 caused relatively little harm, with high commodity prices fortuitously buffering exports and growth in this resource-rich region.
Many factors indicate that now may be the time for Latin American economies to work toward greater regional financial integration. This would not be a substitute for wider integration in the world economy; some Latin American economies are among the most active in global initiatives. However, given the recent economic slowdown in much of the region, limited progress in pursuing global agreements, and the widespread withdrawal of global financial institutions from emerging markets (including those in Latin America), regional financial integration could help buttress the economies of Latin America, enhance competition, and—over the medium term—lead the way toward global integration.