Brazil Posts Record Trade Surplus as Recession Hurts Imports

  • Imports dropped 19.8 percent last year amid demand slowdown
  • Exports also fell despite weakness of the Brazilian real

Brazil posted its largest yearly trade surplus on record as recession smothered domestic demand in Latin America’s largest economy.

The country’s trade surplus rose to 47.7 billion dollars last year compared to 19.7 billion dollars in 2015, according to trade ministry data released Monday. Imports fell 19.8 percent from a year earlier to 137.6 billion dollars, while exports fell 3.1 percent during the same period to 185.2 billion dollars.

Brazil’s trade balance has jumped as high unemployment and falling investments prolong the country’s economic downturn and undercut imports. Meanwhile, even a decline in the currency, which hovered near a record low at the start of 2016, failed to result in an annual increase in exports. In the past month, analysts have increased their trade surplus forecasts for this year to 47 billion dollars while cutting growth estimates in a sign that an export-led recovery may not materialize.

Imports have collapsed under the weight of Brazil’s worst recession on record, which has seen gross domestic product contract for seven straight quarters. Over 12 million workers are out of a job, and above-target inflation has corroded real wage growth.

Brazil expects to post a similar trade surplus in 2017, of between $47-$48 billion, Trade Secretary Abrao Neto told reporters in Brasilia. A return to growth in Brazil this year, alongside improvement in the economies of the country’s main trading partners, should result in increased exports and imports, he added.

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