Meet Robin Brooks, a currency analyst who has spread to Brazil

  • It was a shock to Brooks and his family when he suddenly became a sensation on social media in Brazil.
  • For his Twitter followers in Brazil, where watching exchange rates is a national obsession, Brooks, 51, is simply “the bald guy.”
  • He says the Brooks family is surprised by his new star. “My kids are saying, what the hell is this? This is our goofy dad!”

(Ye Xie and Aline Oyamada, WP Bloomberg)brooks robin He speaks in a sober tone to his Ph.D. in economics who has devoted most of his career to calibrating fair value models of exchange rates.

So it came as a shock to Brooks and his family when he suddenly became a sensation on social media in Brazil. But Brooks is rare in American financial circles: he bets on the long-term appreciation of the Brazilian real. And it was this unwavering optimism, even in the worst moments of a pandemic currency crash, that made him the public face of the astonishing rush that turned the riyal into the world’s best performing currency this year.

For his Twitter followers in Brazil, where watching exchange rates is a national obsession, Brooks, 51, is simply “the bald guy.” Or, sometimes, “Goldman’s bald man.” In fact, he has not worked at Goldman Sachs for five years, but the name sounds much better than “The Baldness of the Institute of International Finance”, where he is currently the chief economist in Washington.

Every tweet he posted is biased upwards instantly receiving thousands of likes and dozens of replies saying “We trust baldness”, which has become something of a hallmark for his followers.

The most enthusiastic photoshopped tweets depicting him as a boxer or GIFs praising him as “the man, the legend, the legend.”

He says the Brooks family is surprised by his new star. “My kids are saying, what the hell is this? This is our goofy dad!”

Some of his critics, who are many, also use similar language to describe their analyzes. They laugh at how their fair value forecast for real – 4.5 dollars – has not changed in more than two years, despite all kinds of turmoil in the domestic economy and global markets.

They say their bullish bet was lucky to catch two big forces driving the currency’s gains: a wave of sharp interest rate increases by the central bank and a sudden surge in global demand for Brazilian exports of soybeans, oil, iron ore and coffee.

But for Brooks, these developments only reflect his firm belief that the country’s economic and trade fundamentals are improving and that the currency is still too weak, even after rising 19% this year. Still a controversial view. Most analysts polled by Bloomberg expect the riyal to weaken from here.

“I still talk about underestimation, underestimation, and underestimation,” Brooks says. Shortly after the release of his bullish analysis, the pandemic hit and investors began withdrawing funds from Brazil at an alarmingly fast pace that he believes the “computer feed is down.” These outings, Brooks says, along with the critically acclaimed Brazilians he’s been watching slander their political leaders on Twitter, encouraged him. “For me, this is usually a sign that things are a little higher. Maybe the currency has value and the Brazilian real is very cheap.”

Isso também explica por que alguns dos fãs mais vocais de Brooks no Twitter brasileiro são apoiadores do Presidente Jair Bolsonaro. For them, the real’s appreciation against the dollar is a sign that Bolsonaro is managing the economy well at a time when he is preparing for a difficult re-election campaign.

The currency in general gets exaggerated attention in Brazilian society, as a result of decades of uncontrolled inflation that to this day causes people to convert part of their money into US dollars. Brooks’ character’s standing in the local Twittersphere is proof of that. Many of his followers seem honest in believing that he is a genius. For others, this is not something very dangerous.

In fact, these days Brooks mostly tweets about the war in Ukraine and how sanctions have failed to stifle Russia’s finances. However, these tweets attract far less attention than when he brags about his analysis of Brazil.

Born and raised in Germany, Brooks studied at the London School of Economics and Yale University before working for the International Monetary Fund, and Brevan Howard and Goldman Sachs, where he was the company’s chief currency analyst.

During his time at the International Monetary Fund, he helped create a fair value model for the currencies he uses to this day. Brooks just tweaked the model a bit to load some high-frequency data.

The model makes estimates for almost all major emerging market currencies. Not everything works well. The Turkish lira, for example, was a controversial bet that went wrong. He acknowledges that his bearish stance on the South African rand appears unrealistic at this point.

“I don’t mean I can predict the future,” Brooks says. “But I’m glad I’m getting it right in Brazil.” / Translation by RENATO PRELORENTZOU

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