Brazil's Christmas shoppers pull back in weak economy
By Asher Levine
SAO PAULO Dec 26 (Reuters) - Brazilians cut down on Christmas spending this year as the weak economy depressed consumer confidence, data released on Friday showed.
In the week of Dec. 18-24, retail sales dropped 1.7 percent from the same period a year earlier, research firm Serasa Experian said.
Data from Brazil's shopping mall retailer's association Alshop confirmed that trend, showing no growth in existing-store sales from the 2013 holiday season.
Higher interest rates on store credit, elevated inflation and dwindling consumer confidence were some of the factors behind this year's decline, Serasa said.
Alshop highlighted the effect of a weaker exchange rate and fewer tax breaks compared with the previous year.
Brazilian consumer confidence is hovering at its lowest levels since the 2008 financial crisis, as the fourth straight year of high inflation and mediocre growth in Latin America's largest economy take a toll on the jobs market.
The average family's debts have also swollen to nearly half of their annual income, up from one-third in 2008, making Brazilians wary of new borrowing and vulnerable to interest rates that are at a three-year high and likely set to rise further. (Reporting by Asher Levine; Editing by Richard Chang)
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