Brazil's consumer confidence rises in February for first time in five months

February 24, 2021 6:12 AM EST

FILE PHOTO: A vendor wearing a face shield and a protective mask waits for customers, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes/File Photo

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By Jamie McGeever

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Consumer confidence in Brazil rose in February for the first time in five months, a survey indicated on Wednesday, lifted by the start of a nationwide vaccination program against COVID-19 and prospects of the government resuming emergency income transfers to the poor.

The rise was most pronounced among consumers in the lowest income bracket, although the overall level of confidence was still below that registered at the end of last year, the Getulio Vargas Foundation's (FGV) findings showed.

"The start of the immunization campaign against COVID-19 and the possibility of extending emergency aid seem to have reduced consumer gloom in February," said FGV research manager Viviane Seda Bittencourt.

"Confidence levels, however, remain low and sustaining an upward trend will depend on factors such as the speed of vaccination, the evolution of the pandemic and, mainly, the recovery of the labor market," she said.

FGV's consumer confidence index rose 2.2 points to 78.0 points in February. That was still below December's 78.5.

Confidence among those in the lowest income bracket earning up to 2,100 reais ($385) a month, who will benefit from the renewed cash transfer program likely to be rolled out soon, rose 5.8 points to 75.3.

Current expectations and the outlook for the coming months improved, although both remained below December's levels, FGV said.

Latin America's largest economy is generally expected to grow by 3% or more this year, although a growing number of economists expect it to contract in the first quarter.

($1 = 5.45 reais)

(Reporting by Jamie McGeever, editing by Louise Heavens and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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