Brazil July vehicle sales seen flat or up slightly


SAO PAULO, Brazil, July 27 (Reuters) - Brazilian auto sales should hold steady or rise slightly in July from June, industry sources said on Tuesday, in a sign South America's largest auto market continues to recover from last year's dip.

Through Monday, the 18th business day in July, sales of autos and light trucks totaled 99,700, slightly below June's volume, the sources said, citing figures from the National Automobile Register, which tracks new vehicle registrations.

If that pace continues to the end of the month, registrations should total 121,860 units, slightly below June's 122,180.

Historical data show that sales tend to pick up in the last week of every month, meaning July's total sales should end in line with or slightly above June's.

"The sales have been very volatile month to month. But in my understanding, since September of last year we have had a sustained upward trend," said Adriano Pitoli, an economist at Tendencias consultants.

He is expecting vehicle sales to rise 6.5 percent in July from June to 130,000. The increase would be 22.6 percent higher than in July 2003.

"The industry has passed its worst moments, which were between March and August of last year," he said.

Vehicle sales fell 3.4 percent last year as the Brazilian economy slipped into a recession under the weight of high interest rates, rising unemployment and low wage growth.

But sales have bounced back as Brazil's economy rebounds from the recession and interest rates fall. The government also briefly helped out the sector with tax breaks.

Vehicle sales rose 11.4 percent in the first half of the year, according to the National Association of Motor Vehicle Production (Anfavea).

Anfavea expects vehicle sales to grow 7.8 percent in 2004 from 2003.

The top four auto sellers in Brazil in the first half of 2004 were General Motors Corp. , Italy's Fiat SpA , Volkswagen AG and Ford Motor Co. .



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