* HSBC PMI falls to 51.1 from 52.2 in November
* New export orders increase for first time in 21 months
By Asher Levine
SAO PAULO, Jan 2 Brazil's manufacturing expanded
at a slower pace in December compared with the previous month, a
private survey showed on Wednesday, suggesting that a recovery
in the beleaguered industrial sector remains tenuous.
The HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index for the Brazilian
manufacturing sector fell to a seasonally-adjusted
51.1 in December from 52.2 in November, yet remained above the
50 mark that divides expansion from contraction, for the third
New orders fell to 52.3 in December, down from 54.4 in
November but still better than any other month of the year as
companies reported stronger demand, with new export orders
expanding for the first time since March 2011.
The report compiled by Markit adds to evidence that
government stimulus and tax breaks, along with an improvement in
the global economy, is slowly lifting Brazilian manufacturers,
who have struggled recently with a tight labor market and weak
demand from abroad.
President Dilma Rousseff's government extended some stimulus
measures last month in an effort to squeeze more growth out of
Latin America's biggest economy, widely expected to expand by
only 1 percent this year at best.
The level of employment in the manufacturing sector was
little changed in December, according to the PMI survey. Brazil
posted a 4.9 percent unemployment rate in November, near an
Inventories of finished products decreased slightly,
reversing a small increase in November. Prices of finished goods
rose for the tenth straight month, with survey participants
citing higher input costs and unfavorable exchange rate
Brazil's statistics agency IBGE will release official
industrial output numbers for the month of November
on Jan. 4.