September 2, 2019 / 7:18 PM / 16 days ago

UPDATE 1-Brazil trade surplus widens in August, but activity slows

(Adds detail)

By Jamie McGeever and Marcela Ayres

BRASILIA, Sept 2 (Reuters) - Brazil’s trade surplus in August widened from the same month a year ago thanks to a steeper decline in imports than exports, government data showed on Monday, but the accumulated surplus so far in 2019 is notably down from the same period last year.

Brazil posted a trade surplus of $3.28 billion last month, the widest surplus for the month of August since 2017 and almost 20% wider than the $2.28 billion surplus in August last year, the Economy Ministry said.

The median forecast in a Reuters poll of economists was for a surplus of $3.20 billion.

Exports fell 8.4% from a year ago to $18.85 billion in August, while imports slumped 13.3% to $15.57 billion, reflecting a broad slowdown in cross-border trade as global growth slowed over the year.

A surprisingly weak domestic economy - it has essentially stagnated this year - curbed imports, while exports were hit by declining orders and prices of soy, and weaker auto demand from crisis-hit neighbor and third largest trading partner Argentina.

So far this year, Brazil has chalked up a trade surplus of $31.76 billion. That’s down 13.4% from the $36.67 billion registered in the first eight months of last year, and all else being equal, is a drag on overall economic growth.

Economists and analysts surveyed in the central bank’s weekly ‘FOCUS’ polls project a trade surplus of $52.35 billion this year, which would be around 10% lower than the $58.0 billion surplus registered in 2018.

The Economy Ministry estimates a trade surplus of $56.7 billion for this year, although that forecast made in July is expected to be revised next month. (Reporting by Marcela Ayres Writing by Jamie McGeever Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Nick Zieminski)

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