By Kelly Oliveira
Brazil’s external accounts saw a positive balance for the second consecutive month, the Central Bank reported. In April, the surplus in current transactions—the purchase and sale of goods and services as well as income transfers between Brazil and other countries—added up to $3.84 billion, the highest value in this monthly time series, initiated in 1995.
In April 2020, the country ran a $1.91 billion deficit. “In the comparison with the $1.9 billion deficit in April 2019, the major drivers were the $2.3 billion lows in the deficit for primary income (profits and dividends, payment of interest, and salaries) and the $2.1 billion in services, in addition to the $1.3 billion increase in the surplus of the balance of trade,” the Central Bank reported, comparing results from April this year with the same month in 2019.
The deficit in current transactions for the first four-month period of 2020 amounted to $11.877 billion, down 19.9 percent from the $16.953 billion registered for January–April 2019. The deifict in current transactions for the 12-month ending in April 2020 totaled $44.4 billion, 2.61 percent of the country’s GDP.
Balance of trade
The export of goods reached $18.359 billion in April and imports $11.923 billion, resulting in a commercial surplus of $6.437, against the $5.125 billion in the same month last year. From January to April, the commercial surplus totaled $9.626 billion, compared to the $12.681 billion for the same period in 2019.
The deficit in the account for services (international travel, transport, equipment lease, among others) amounted to $1.208 billion in April, compared to the $3.296 billion in the same period in 2019. In the four months of the year, the negative balance reached $8.063 billion, lower than the $10.839 billion reported for January–April 2019.
The biggest contribution to this contraction in services stems from a 91.2 percent decline for net expenditures (revenues deducted) under travel, which totaled $90 million in April 2020, against the $1.021 billion in April 2019. The restrictions on circulation due to the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on the final result.
In April, revenues from foreigners traveling in Brazil added up to $113 million, down 76 percent from the same period in 2019, whereas the amount spent by Brazilians overseas stood at $612 million, down 86.4 percent in the same comparison.
Year to month, the negative balance in the travel account (revenues and expenditures) totals $1.576 billion, against the $3.528 billion in the first four months of 2019.
According to the Central Bank’s head for statistics, Fernando Rocha, the reduction in the number of flights and the increase in the dollar exchange rate were the factors behind the impact on the travel account. “Of course most people that were going on trips as tourists or on business are no longer doing that because of the pandemic,” he said, adding that those who still traveled had to cope with an expensive dollar.
In May, up to last Thursday (21), the travel account generated revenues adding up to $98 million and expenditures of $177 million—a deficit of $79 million.
In April 2020, the deficit for primary revenues reached $1.557 billion, against the $3.864 billion in the same period in 2019. In the first four months, the negative balance stood at $13.871 billion, compared to the $19.110 billion in the same period last year.
The account for secondary revenues (generated in one economy and distributed inn another, like the donation and transfer of dollars, with no services or goods given in exchange) saw a positive $168 million, against the $125 million in April 2019. In the first four months it reached $432 million, compared to the $315 million in the same period in 2019.
The net amount of direct investment coming into the country added up to $234 million in April, compared to the $5.107 billion seen in April 2019. The result for April was the lowest since July 2016, when $103 million left the country. Considering months of April only, this is the lowest amount of direct foreign investment since 1995, when it was reported at $168 million.
The Central Bank’s perception, Rocha said, is that direct investments in April have been postponed, not canceled. He added that companies may be choosing to keep resources available (liquidity) in the moment of crisis caused by the pandemic until uncertainties start dying out. “It seems like the postponement of operations in the month in which a lot of uncertainties have arisen on what’s happening in the Brazilian and the global economies,” he stated.
In the first four months, direct investment in the country reached $18.043 billion, compared to the $23.395 billion from January to April 2019. In the 12-month period ending in March 2020, this amount added up to $73.2 billion—4.31 percent of the GDP—compared to the $78.1 billion (4.48 percent of the GDP) in the previous month.
The data from the Central Bank also show a net outflow (inflow deducted) of investment in portfolio in the domestic market of $7.313 billion, against the $547 million of net outflow in the same period in 2019. Regarding shares and investment funds, the outflow stood at $2.443 billion. The net outflow of securities was larger, $4.870 billion.
In the first four months this year, net outflows totaled $31.448 billion for this kind of investment, against the net inflow of $9.962 billion observed in the same period in 2019.
The Central Bank expects external accounts to continue to show a positive balance in May. For this month, the estimate for the result in current transactions is a $3.1 billion surplus, whereas its counterpart for direct investment in the country is $1.5 billion. This month, up to 21st, direct investment in the country reached $1.266 billion.