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By Jamie McGeever
BRASILIA, April 1 (Reuters) - Brazil posted a trade surplus of $4.99 billion in March, the Economy Ministry said on Monday, significantly smaller than the same month a year ago thanks to a strong rise in imports.
The trade surplus last month fell 22.3 percent to $4.99 billion from $6.42 billion a year ago, although that was up more than a third from February’s surplus of $3.67 billion.
Exports totaled $18.12 billion, down 1.0 percent from March last year, while imports totaled $13.13 billion, up 5.1 percent from the same month last year, Economy Ministry figures showed.
All else being equal, a shrinking trade surplus is a drag on economic growth. Last week, Brazil’s central bank cut its 2019 growth forecast to 2.0 percent from 2.4 percent, noting that net trade is expected to shave 0.2 percentage points off overall growth.
Foreign trade secretary Lucas Ferraz said on Monday he expects Brazil’s trade surplus this year to total $50.1 billion, on exports of $245.9 billion and imports of $195.8 billion.
That would be the third largest surplus on record, Ferraz noted, but crucially it would be some 15 percent down from last year’s surplus of $58.66 billion, and 25 percent down from the year before that. The data for March showed a 13.0 percent jump in imports of capital goods, including autos, while commodities exports rose 7.9 percent. Exports of manufactured goods fell 6.5 percent. (Reporting by Mateus Maia, writing by Jamie McGeever; editing by Lisa Shumaker and Chizu Nomiyama)