By Jamie McGeever
BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian retail sales rose for the third straight month in August, official figures showed on Thursday, although the rise was far less than expected and the previous month's increase was revised sharply lower.
Overall, the weak growth in August's sales volumes and the downward revision to July's increase suggest the foundations of Brazil's consumer-led economic recovery may not be quite as strong as previously thought.
Retail sales volumes excluding cars and building materials rose 0.1% in August from July, government statistics agency IBGE said on Thursday, the third monthly gain in a row but less than the 0.3% economists had expected.
Sales grew 1.3% from the same month last year, lower than the 1.8% median forecast in the Reuters poll.
July's monthly increase was revised down to 0.5% from 1.0%, IBGE said, bringing the accumulated rise so far this year to 1.2%. In the 12 months to August, retail sales rose 1.4%, compared with 1.6% in the 12 months to July.
"Despite the soft August print, the outlook for private consumption and retail sales is moderately positive," said Alberto Ramos, head of Latin American research at Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), pointing to low inflation boosting real wages, employment growth and falling interest rates.
Four of the eight segments surveyed by IBGE registered sales growth in August, and four registered declines.
The segment comprising supermarket, food and drink, and tobacco sales - the biggest overall weight on the retail sales data - climbed 0.6%, while other personal and household goods rose 0.2%. Between them, these two sectors make up around 60% of all retail sales, IBGE said.
Sales of fuels and oil fell 3.3% on the month, sales of clothing and shoes fell 2.5% and furniture and household electrical goods fell 1.5%.
July's figures bring retail sales back up to June 2015 levels, the IBGE said, although they remain 5.3% below the record heights reached in October 2014.
On a year-on-year basis, the 1.4% increase in August marked the fifth consecutive month of sales growth, IBGE said.
But growth will have to pick up between now and the end of the year if the annual performance in 2019 is to improve on the 2.1% rise in 2017 and 2.3% rise last year.