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article imageBrazil's central bank maintains key interest rate at 6.5 percent

By AFP     Aug 1, 2018 in World

Brazil's Central Bank maintained its key Selic interest rate steady at 6.5 percent on Wednesday, following a bump in inflation prompted by the depreciating real and a painful truck drivers' strike.

The Central Bank made 12 consecutive rate cuts ending in March, bringing the Selic to a historic low. Analysts now expect it to remain unchanged until the end of the year before rising to around eight percent next year.

The latest decision to hold rates followed the lifting of fears of inflationary pressure in the wake of the truckers' strike.

The protest against high fuel prices paralyzed transport across Latin America's biggest country for almost two weeks in May, leading to empty shop shelves and huge lines at gas stations, followed by a brief spike in prices for many goods.

The event was blamed for inflation of 1.26 percent in June, the highest rate since the start of 2016.

However, "the evolution of prices indicates that the effects of the truckers' strike is starting to reverse, returning to the rhythm of before," said Infinity Assets, an investment consultancy.

On a 12-month basis, inflation was at 4.39 percent in June, up from 2.86 percent in May. However, even this spike remained within the upper 4.5 percent end of the government's targeted inflation range.

The market consensus is for 4.11 percent inflation in 2018.

Meanwhile, the real has stabilized at around 3.70 to the dollar after having dipped almost to the four real mark, its lowest value in two years.

US trading tensions and expectations at the Fed for higher interest rates has pulled money out of emerging markets like Brazil.

However, there has been some respite for Brazil investors, who are welcoming increased momentum for center-right former Sao Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin in the October presidential race, said Alex Agostini, from the Austin Rating consultancy.

"He has shown he is concerned with controling inflation and intends to attack the debt problem. His platform is in line with what the market wants to hear," Agostini said.

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