Brazil posts first January trade deficit in five years

By Marcela Ayres and Jamie McGeever

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil posted a trade deficit of $1.745 billion in January, official data showed on Monday, the first shortfall for the month of January in five years and an indication that trade might continue to be a drag on overall economic growth.

Economy Ministry officials said last month they expected rising imports this year to lead to an even smaller annual trade surplus than last year’s, which itself was the smallest surplus since 2015.

But the $1.745 billion deficit last month was fueled more by a sharp fall in exports, which were 20% down to $14.43 billion from the same month last year, Economy Ministry figures showed.

With imports falling a more slender 1.3% to $16.175 billion, the overall trade deficit was particularly large when compared with the median consensus forecast in a Reuters poll of economists of a $100 million surplus.

The Economy Ministry will publish its official 2020 trade balance estimate in April. The central bank said in December that it expects the trade surplus to shrink further this year to $32 billion. Last year, Brazil’s trade surplus was $46.7 billion.

Official figures showed that in the third quarter of last year the only two segments of the economy acting as a drag on overall growth were government spending and net trade.

The real’s slide to record lows against the U.S. dollar in recent months has failed to boost Brazilian exports, which have been hit by slowing global trade, U.S.-China trade tensions and economic difficulties in neighboring Argentina.

(Reporting by Marcela Ayres; Writing by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Chris Reese and Grant McCool)

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