Brazil economic activity rises in September, points to solid third quarter rebound

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Economic activity in Brazil rose in September for a fifth month, a central bank survey showed on Friday, more than economists had expected, pointing to a solid recovery in the third quarter from the worst of the COVID-19 shock earlier in the year.

The central bank’s IBC-Br index, often seen as a good proxy for broader gross domestic product, rose a seasonally-adjusted 1.3% in September from August, above the median 1.0% forecast in a Reuters poll of economists.

It brought the cumulative increase over the third quarter to 9.5%, but still leaves activity 2.5% below its pre-pandemic level in February, the central bank figures show.

Economists at Citi immediately raised their third-quarter and full-year GDP growth forecasts on the back of the data. They now see Q3 GDP rising 7.3%, up from 6.7%, and revised their 2020 GDP forecast to -5.5% from -5.8%.

“Overall, the main activity indicators (industrial production, civil construction, retail sales, services survey, etc) performed better than our expectations, triggering an upward revision,” they wrote in a note on Friday.

It was the index’s fifth monthly increase in a row, but because August’s rise was revised up to 1.4% from 1.1%, September’s increase was the smallest of them all.

Compared to September last year activity was down 0.8%, and on an accumulated 12-month basis down 3.3%, both on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, the central bank said.

By this measure, Latin America’s largest economy is still 8.3% smaller than it was at its peak in December 2013.

Brazil’s economy is expected to register its biggest-ever annual slump this year, with the government forecasting a 4.7% fall. Economy Minister Paulo Guedes insists that Brazil will suffer less and will recover more quickly than many other countries due to government and central bank support.

Guedes reiterated his bullish view of the economy this week, saying it is in a “V-shaped” recovery and could grow by as much as 4% next year.

Reporting by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Catherine Evans and Pravin Char