Using our estimated neutral interest rates we find that current policy rates are close to their neutral level in several countries (Chile, Colombia, and Peru). For Brazil and Mexico we find that monetary policies remain stimulative (with actual interest rates below neutral). For other countries in the region our analysis suggests that Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Paraguay, and Uruguay have lower interest rates than their neutral level. However, these results should be viewed with caution given data limitations and weaker monetary policy transmissions.
Policymakers and analysts in the region should be vigilant about rapidly growing mortgage credit and home prices because, as we know too well, they can create financial instability. Latin America has a long history of credit booms gone wrong and experience shows that while credit-driven asset price bubbles build slowly they can sour quickly. But then again, Latin America has a large housing deficit, so construction activity should be catching up as living standards improve and mortgage credit deepens from its very low base. A proper assessment of the situation is hindered by the limited and weak information available for the real estate sector in Latin America.