By Doug Gray, Contributing Reporter

Petrobras' Downtown Rio Headquarters, photo by Doug Gray
Petrobras' Downtown Rio Headquarters, photo by Doug Gray

RIO DE JANEIRO – The BOVESPA index has been oscillating heavily, but throughout March it gained 7.18%, with R$1.44 billion – 34% of the total for the month – invested from overseas companies (Wall Street Journal). This reflecting the continuing confidence in the potential of Brazil’s market.

As a further sign it’s not all bad news for industry, shares in Petrobras, the state-run oil giant, continue to strengthen having bottomed out at 14 points at the end of 2008, and now stand at 34.3 points (at close on 7/4/09). BOVESPA as a whole has also recorded a 16.48% increase since the turn of the year.

In Brazil unemployment stood at 8.5% at the end of February (Wall Street Journal), an improvement over the same period last year, and offering hope against those who claim the country is heading towards 0% growth in 2009. President Lula may have backed down from an earlier estimate of 4.5% growth to just 2% this year (Reuters), but that would still prove significant with the likes of US, the UK and Japan heading towards negative rates for 2009.

Other positive news in March was the impact of the tax reduction on car prices across Brazil, which has led to a 36% increase in sales over February, with Fiat and Volkswagen leading the way. With over 270,000 vehicles sold, that number represents the strongest March car sales in the country’s history. (O Globo)

Meanwhile in London, President Barack Obama was overheard introducing Lula as ‘The Man’ to fellow heads of state at the G20 summit with what he hopes will become a major power ally with the US, also claiming that Lula is currently the most popular politician on Earth.

The popularity of Brazil’s President has indeed seen record approval ratings of up to 82%, but this has taken a hit recently as job losses continue to rise and industrial production falters, and the measures to combat the crisis have been sharply criticized as insufficient and poorly managed.

Last week crowds took to the streets across Brazil to protest against the economic crisis that continues to threaten jobs and industry in the country. From Rio to Sao Paulo and north to Manaus, thousands marched to demonstrate against what they see as gross inaction from their government to help preserve employment. In Rio De Janeiro traffic was interrupted as unionists and students marched in front of the Banco Central demanding a reduction in interest rates to help business cope with the world recession.

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