March 1, 2019 / 7:21 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-Brazil posts $3.673 bln trade surplus in Feb, more than forecast

(New throughout, adds details and background)

BRASILIA, March 1 (Reuters) - Brazil posted a trade surplus of $3.673 billion in February, government data showed on Friday, surpassing market estimates of $3.0 billion, with imports falling more than exports due to sluggish domestic demand.

Imports totaled $12.620 billion, a 21.2 percent drop from the same month a year ago, while exports fell by 15.8 percent to $16.293 billion, the trade ministry reported.

It was the highest surplus for the month of February since the series began in 1989.

Brazil’s trade surplus last year narrowed 13 percent to $58.3 billion from $67 billion the year before. It is forecast to drop further to $51 billion this year, according to economists polled by the Central Bank.

Economic growth in Brazil almost ground to a standstill at the end of last year. Gross domestic product expanded by just 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter, while over the course of 2018 growth was unchanged form the previous year at 1.1 percent.

The GDP data suggest activity this year will be lackluster again. Economists at Barclays cut their 2019 growth forecast to 2.2 percent from 2.5 percent, and Goldman Sachs economists cut theirs to 2.0 percent from 2.2 percent.

As part of his orthodox economic reform agenda of cutting taxes, slashing public spending and overhauling the pension system, President Jair Bolsonaro has also said he wants free “bilateral trade with the entire world without an ideological bias”. (Reporting by Mateus Maia Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio)

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