UPDATE 2-Brazil Sept retail sales reach new highs, but momentum slowing sharply

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BRASILIA, Nov 11 (Reuters) – Brazilian retail sales rose in September for the fifth month in a row to a fresh record high, official figures showed on Wednesday, although the increase was by far the smallest in those months and only around half of what economists had expected.

Economy ministry officials have hailed the rebound in retail activity as a sign that the wider economy is recovering strongly from the worst of the coronavirus crisis, but that momentum is clearly slowing.

Retail sales volumes excluding cars and building materials rose 0.6% in September from August, statistics agency IBGE said, much less than the 1.3% rise forecast in a Reuters poll of economists.

“The slowdown is natural … because the falls in March and April were huge, which meant the following months of recovery were also intense. The slowdown suggests the series is returning to normality,” said IBGE research director Cristiano Santos.

August’s month-on-month increase was revised down to 3.1% from 3.4%, IBGE said.

On an annual basis, retail sales grew 7.3% in September, compared to expectations for an 8.7% increase in the Reuters poll.

The rise in September lifted the total seasonally adjusted volume of sales to a new high since the series was first compiled in 2000, according to IBGE.

Five of the eight sectors covered by IBGE showed increased sales. Sales of books, newspapers, magazines and stationery items rose 8.9%, fuel and oil rose 3.1%, and pharmaceutical, medical and cosmetic items rose 2.1%, IBGE said.

Sales are now flat on the year, breaking a run of six months of declines, and are up 0.9% over the past 12 months, IBGE said.

On a wider basis, including cars and building materials, retail sales rose 1.2% in September from the previous month and 7.4% from September 2019, IBGE said.

Wider retail sales are back above pre-pandemic levels from February, but in the first nine months of this year were still down 3.6%. As the IBGE chart below shows, overall sales volumes are still 3.5% below the August 2012 peak.

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