Brazil's 3rd-qtr seaborne trade suggests weak economy -Maersk

Tue Nov 13, 2012 3:00am EST

* Seaborne trade falls 0.4 pct in 3rd qtr versus year ago

* Maersk says Brazil trade levels on downward trend

* Import, export drop shows Brazil growth may stall

* China stabilization has not brought trade boost

By Jeb Blount

RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Brazilian seaborne trade fell 0.4 percent in the third quarter compared with a year earlier as declines in both imports and exports showed weakness in domestic and international markets, Danish shipping company Maersk Line said on Tuesday.

It was the worst result since at least the first quarter of 2011, the earliest period for which Maersk has results for total Brazilian seaborne trading volumes, according to its first International Trade Report. Maersk Line is a unit of Denmark's A.P. Moller Maersk AS shipping and oil group.

As shipping is closely correlated to economic growth, the result is a sign that Brazil's economy may not be speeding up as much as the government expects, said Peter Gyde, head of Maersk line in Brazil.

The government says Brazil's gross domestic product could grow more than 4 percent next year. GDP rose only 0.49 percent in the second quarter and industrial output fell 3.8 percent in September.

"The trend line for a period has been negative," Gyde told Reuters on Monday. "The government is talking about a pickup, but my main concern is that the trend lines are pointing in the other direction."

And while October Brazilian seaborne trade showed some improvement over third-quarter levels, November and December look weaker, he said.

The data in the report was compiled for Maersk by Rio de Janeiro international trade data and consulting company Dataliner. The figures represent total ocean trade with Brazil and not just Maersk's shipping traffic, Maersk said in a statement.

Maersk controls about 15 percent of the container shipping market in Latin America.

Even as China's economy stabilizes from a slowdown, Brazil's trade with its largest partner has shown little growth, Gyde said.

Exports of refrigerated goods to Asia fell 7.9 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier while exports of "dry" nonrefrigerated goods grew 1.5 percent. In the second quarter, dry exports rose 31 percent compared with a year earlier.

Brazilian Asian imports fell 0.6 percent in the third quarter.

"Brazil has yet to reap the benefits of better consumer spending in Asia's biggest economy," Gyde said. "Asia has been the locomotive of growth and its slowing down is a bit of a concern."

Some of the decline in trade to Asia is being made up with new trade with the Middle East, he added.

Dry exports to Europe fell 16 percent, while refrigerated food exports rose 20 percent in the third quarter.

The best improvement came from the United States, where the third quarter saw the first sign of growth since early 2011. Brazilian dry exports to the United States and the Gulf of Mexico rose 7 percent in the quarter from a year earlier after falling 0.8 percent in the second quarter.

Sugar cargo volumes fell 28 percent from a year ago, leading export declines. Sugar was followed by automobile and transportation equipment, down 21 percent. Plastics and rubber fell 9 percent as did coffee.

Import declines were led by cotton, down 31 percent. Metals, mining and construction goods fell 11 percent, fish imports fell 10 percent and automobile and transportation equipment fell 6 percent.

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