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Brazil Closes Out 2017 with Record Trade Surplus

  • Agence France-Presse

FILE - Brazil's President Michel Temer attends the opening ceremony of the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec. 10, 2017.

Brazil's road to economic recovery has passed another milestone with official data showing Tuesday that the country finished 2017 with a record trade surplus 40.5 percent higher than in the previous year.

The $67 billion surplus was in line with market projections and within the $65 billion to $70 billion range forecast by the government.

Brazil's economy is projected to grow 2 percent this year, according to an annual report by the United Nations-backed Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) released last month.

That is unspectacular but solid — and far better than the 0.2 percent expected for 2017, or the two years of its worst-ever recession preceding that.

The government's own projections are slightly more optimistic: 3 percent in 2018 and 1.1 percent in 2017.

Economy Minister Henrique Meirelles said last month that the improvement was owed to better "fiscal control, the approval of a freeze on public spending and reforms in general."

The country's key interest rate is now at a record low of 7 percent, half of what it was in late 2016. Inflation is now considered a minimal risk.

Brazil's center-right president, Michel Temer, has spearheaded austerity cuts, looser labor laws and a big privatization program to boost the economy, Latin America's largest.

But Temer remains unpopular with voters, clouding the political outlook ahead of presidential election this year.

The front-runners for the election are leftist former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and rightwing former army officer Jair Bolsonaro. Neither man is much welcomed by investors.

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