Brazil retail sales rise in May, April increase revised sharply higher

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BRASILIA, July 7 (Reuters) - Brazilian retail sales rose in May for a second month in a row, figures showed on Wednesday, with a strong upward revision for April suggesting consumers are shrugging off the COVID-19 pandemic and driving the broader economic recovery.

Figures from government statistics agency IBGE showed that the rise in retail sales in May was broad-based, and means total volumes were almost 4% above the pre-pandemic levels of early last year.

Sales excluding autos and construction materials rose a seasonally adjusted 1.4% in May from April. That was less than the median forecast in a Reuters poll of economists for a 2.4% rise, but April's 1.8% rise was revised sharply higher to an increase of 4.9%.

IBGE survey manager Cristiano Santos urged caution, however.

"This is a recovery, but from a very low base," he said.

Sales jumped 16.0% on a year-on-year basis, boosted by base effects following the steep decline in May last year. That was slightly less than the 16.5% rise forecast in the Reuters poll.

IBGE said month-on-month sales rose in seven of the eight categories surveyed in May, led by a 16.8% rise in clothing and footwear and a 6.8% increase in fuel sales. The only sector to post a fall in sales was pharmaceutical and cosmetics goods.

So far this year, retail sales are up 6.8% from the January-May period last year, IBGE said, although still 1.3% below the record high from October last year.

On a wider basis, including cars and building materials, retail sales in May rose 3.8% on the month, jumped 26.2% on the year, and are up 12.4% so far this year, IBGE said.

By this measure, however, retail sales in Brazil were still down 3.4% from their peak in August 2012, IBGE said.

Reporting by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Kirsten Donovan

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