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SAO PAULO, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Loan default and unpaid utility bills among Brazilian companies rose in the first seven months at the fastest pace in three years, reflecting rising borrowing costs and the steepest economic downturn in 25 years, credit research firm Serasa Experian said on Wednesday.
The so-called Serasa Experian Corporate Default Index rose 12.9 percent in the January-to-July period from a year earlier, the biggest jump since a 15.2 percent rise three years ago. On a monthly basis, corporate delinquencies surged 12.6 percent in July from a year earlier, Serasa said.
Economists expect Brazil's economy, the largest in Latin America, to shrink this year and next, the first back-to-back annual contraction since the 1930s.
Households across the country are grappling with accelerating inflation and large job losses, testing the ability of companies and consumers to stay current on their financial obligations, economists said. (Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Editing by Alan Crosby)