SAO PAULO, April 3 (Reuters) - Activity in Brazil's services advanced slightly in March from February, a survey showed on Thursday, as the prospect of hosting the World Cup helped bolster business sentiment despite the sluggish economy.
HSBC's Purchasing Managers Index for Brazilian services rose on a seasonally adjusted basis to 51.0 in March from 50.8 in February. A reading above 50 shows growth.
As a result, HSBC's Composite Index for the country, incorporating slightly more manufacturing activity, also rose to 51.0 in March from 50.8 in February.
The second straight month of growth eased concerns about a stagnant first quarter, but did not show the sort of accelerating activity that would lift pressure from President Dilma Rousseff as she prepares to run for re-election in October.
"Except for business expectations, which may have firmed up because of the proximity of the FIFA World Cup, most of the indices ... point to weak economic conditions," said Andre Loes, chief economist for HSBC in Brazil.
Business activity rose in three of six sectors surveyed: finance, communications and rental activities.
Private sector payrolls grew modestly along with new business for service providers, which rose for the 19th consecutive month. Services inflation eased to its softest since October and input prices rose at the slowest pace in five months. (Reporting by Brad Haynes; Editing by Tom Brown)