UPDATE 3-Weak holidays cap Brazil's worst retail year in a decade

jueves 13 de febrero de 2014 15:40 GYT

By Brad Haynes

SAO PAULO Feb 13 (Reuters) - Brazilian retail sales dropped unexpectedly in December, ending the weakest year in a decade as persistent inflation and eroding consumer confidence sapped one of the few drivers of growth in Latin America's largest economy.

Tumbling furniture and appliance sales contributed to the first drop in retail activity in 10 months, sending shares of consumer-focused companies sliding and causing some economists to lower growth forecasts.

Retail sales volumes in Brazil fell a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent in December from November, government statistics agency IBGE said on Thursday, in contrast to the median estimate of a 0.4 percent gain among economists surveyed by Reuters.

As a result, sales grew just 4.3 percent in 2013, the weakest expansion since 2003, as tighter lending, slowing job growth and a sliding currency chilled the spending habits of Brazil's once buoyant consumers.

Citigroup analysts Marcelo Kfoury and Leonardo Porto in Sao Paulo cut their outlook for Brazilian Gross Domestic Product growth in 2014 to 1.3 percent and for 2015 to 1.8 percent from 2.0 percent after the IBGE announcement.

Lower-than-expected December retail sales followed disappointing industrial production results for the month, prompting their cut in the growth outlook, the Citigroup pair wrote in a note to investors.   Continuación...