Brazil Closes Out 2017 with Record Trade Surplus

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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