* HSBC Brazil Services PMI rises to 52.8 in September
* Composite PMI up to 52.2 last month
* Hiring resumes, but limited to a few companies
By Silvio Cascione
SAO PAULO, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Activity in Brazil’s services sector rose in September, easing concerns over the country’s main growth engine after two months of contraction, a private survey showed on Wednesday.
HSBC’s Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for the Brazilian services sector rose to 52.8 in September on a seasonally adjusted basis, above the 50 mark that divides expansion from contraction.
Combined with a slight improvement in a manufacturing index released on Monday, the services data lifted the HSBC Brazil Composite Output Index to its highest level since April --52.2, up from 48.6 in August.
Both indicators suggest the world’s sixth-largest economy is poised to accelerate, leaving behind one year of stagnation after aggressive stimuli by President Dilma Rousseff.
Years of fast growth lifted more than 30 million Brazilians out of poverty in the past decade, fostering demand for a wide range of services such as banking and telecommunications. That helped Brazil avert a recession in the past year, as manufacturers struggled with weak global demand and high costs.
“The rebound of the services PMI provides further evidence that the recovery of economic activity we were expecting for the second half of the year appears to be materializing,” said Andre Loes, chief economist in Brazil for HSBC.
Brazil’s Services PMI had stayed at 48.1 in August, its lowest level since May 2009. Loes said that such a poor performance was a “cause of discomfort.”
Brazil is expected to grow just 1.6 percent this year, the slowest since 2009 in the aftermath of the global credit crisis. In 2013, it is expected to expand by 4 percent, after nine interest rate cuts in a row and a string of tax breaks and other stimulus measures, a central bank poll showed.
Still, the Services PMI report showed growth was limited to a few companies, underlining that the pace of expansion in Latin America’s largest economy is still very modest.
Around 18 percent of the survey respondents report higher business activity on stronger demand, said Markit, which compiled the data for HSBC. Also, only around 5 percent of service providers signaled job creation in September, whereas the vast majority, 92 percent, reported no change in hiring.
Business sentiment over the year ahead remained positive, but eroded to its lowest level in 20 months.
The main growth drivers in coming months, according to the survey respondents, will be increasing demand, both locally and abroad, projects following municipal elections this month, and preparations for the 2014 Soccer World Cup.
Inflation of input costs cooled down to its slowest pace since November 2011. That rise, albeit weaker, was passed through prices charged to consumers, the poll suggested.