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Brazil Plans to Closely Monitor Price of Crude Oil, Mantega Says

Brazil’s government will “closely” monitor the price of oil so it doesn’t get too distant from domestic gasoline prices, causing losses for Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Finance Minister Guido Mantega said today.

Petrobras, as the state-controlled oil company is known, got clearance to raise gasoline prices at refineries by 6.6 percent and diesel by 5.4 percent, according to a regulatory filing from Jan 29. The increase trailed analyst estimates.

“We tend to follow more the price variation of the crude barrel in the international market, so that Petrobras doesn’t incur any loss,” Mantega told reporters in Brasilia today. “We’ll be alert,” he said, while mentioning that a second increase in gasoline prices is “not appropriate” right now.

The most-traded or preferred shares in Rio de Janeiro-based company, the worst-performing major oil producer in the past year, slumped to the lowest since 2008 today as rising fuel-import costs spurred an unexpected decline in earnings before items. Voting shares dropped to the lowest since 2005.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization fell to 11.9 billion reais ($5.96 billion) from 14.4 billion reais in the previous quarter, the state-run company said yesterday after the close of trading. The average of eight analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg was for Ebitda of 14.6 billion reais.

Petrobras is down 7.3 percent this year, compared with a 1.9 percent drop in the benchmark index.

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