Brazil Current Account Gap Widest for February as Exports Fall

Brazil’s current account deficit was the widest ever for the month of February, as exports fell while imports rose.

The deficit in the current account, the broadest measure of trade in goods and services, widened in February to $6.6 billion from $1.7 billion a year earlier, the central bank said in a report distributed today in Brasilia. Analysts forecast a gap of $6 billion, according to the median estimate from 18 economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

Foreign direct investment in February rose to $3.8 billion from $3.7 billion in January, the central bank said. Economists forecast investments of $3.5 billion, according to the median estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

President Dilma Rousseff’s government has implemented measures aimed at rebuilding business confidence and stoking investments, which dropped 4 percent in 2012. Officials this year have traveled to New York and London to drum up interest in Brazil’s $235 billion infrastructure program, announced plans to privatize ports and extended payroll tax cuts to new industries. The central bank predicts foreign investment will hover around record levels in 2013, after it exceeded forecasts last year.

After growing 0.9 percent in 2012, the slowest among major emerging markets, Brazil’s $2.5 trillion economy will expand by at least 3 percent this year, Finance Minister Guido Mantega said on March 1.

Swap rates on the contract maturing in January 2014, the most traded in Sao Paulo today, fell six basis points, or 0.06 percentage point, to 7.78 percent at 10:35 a.m. local time. The real weakened 0.3 percent to 2.0132 per U.S. dollar.

Trade Deficit

Brazil’s trade deficit in February was $1.3 billion, compared with a surplus of $1.7 billion a year ago, according to the central bank. Exports fell 13.8 percent to $15.5 billion from a year earlier, while imports rose 3 percent to $16.8 billion.

The central bank revised its prediction for the current account in 2013 to a $67 billion deficit, from $65 billion previously, while maintaining its forecast for foreign investment at $65 billion.

Earlier this month, 3i Group Plc and investors Neuberger Berman Group LLC and Siguler Guff & Co agreed to spend a total of 108 million reais ($53.7 billion) to buy Oticas Carol, the second-largest eyeglass retailer in Brazil. The three companies invested in the Sao Paulo-based Oticas Carol to penetrate Brazil’s growing middle class.

While growth in the world’s second-largest emerging has slowed, inflation has approached the upper limit of the central bank’s target range. Annual inflation through mid-March accelerated to 6.43 percent, the highest level since January

2012. The central bank targets inflation of 4.5 percent, plus or minus two percentage points.