By Lisa Flueckiger, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Commerce in Brazil grew by 2.6 percent between January and June of 2015 in comparison to the same period last year. This constitutes the lowest increase registered for the first semester of a year since 2002, according to data published on July 7th by consultancy Serasa Experian.

Clothing sales grew by 5.8 percent, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Clothing sales grew by 5.8 percent in 2015, photo courtesy of Agencia Brasil.

“It is the result of the economic environment that began to deteriorate last year, with rising inflation, interest rates, and now, more recently, rising unemployment,” economist at Serasa, Luiz Rabi, told Agencia Brasil.

The automobile sector had the worst result for the first semester in 2015 as it shrank by 12.5 percent, followed by construction material, which decreased 7.1 percent. Rabi explains that people are “less prone to buying vehicles and building materials, as they are medium-term expenditure, [and] normally financed.”

Also feeling the impact are the country’s supermarkets, which saw their sales grow by only two percent. High food prices, some of which were heavily influenced by inflation, were cited as the reason.

The best results for the first semester of 2015 were registered in the clothing sector with a growth of 5.8 percent and furniture and electronics which grew by 5.2 percent.

Rabi expected the results in commerce to slightly worsen over the next months. “I think it won’t get to negative [growth], as we had in 2002. At that time, we were at the height of the blackout crisis,” he stated. In 2002, commerce had to register a fall of 6.9 percent in its first semester of the year.

However, “the rise in the dollar and energy [costs], combined with the shock in food [prices], are still producing effects on inflation that will take a while to disperse,” Rabi added.

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