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Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff speaks during installation of the Commission of Truth in the Palacio do Planalto in Brasilia, May 16, 2012. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff speaks during installation of the Commission of Truth in the Palacio do Planalto in Brasilia, May 16, 2012. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

Brazil cuts rates to record low Add to ...

Brazil’s central bank cut interest rates on Wednesday for the seventh straight time to a record low 8.5 per cent, moving into uncharted territory in a bid to shield a fragile recovery from a gloomy global outlook.

President Dilma Rousseff has made lower interest rates one of the top priorities of her government, which is struggling to steer the economy back to the 4-per-cent-plus growth rates that made Brazil one of the world’s most attractive emerging markets in the last decade.

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The central bank’s monetary policy committee, known as Copom, voted unanimously to lower the benchmark Selic rate 50 basis points from 9 per cent, in line with market expectations.

“At this moment, Copom believes that the risks to the inflation outlook remain limited,” the bank said in a statement that accompanied the decision. The statement used the exact same language as the previous statement when the bank cut the Selic rate in April.

With Wednesday’s cut, the central bank has now lopped 400 basis points off the Selic rate since August, 2011, when it surprised markets by starting an easing cycle despite widespread concerns at the time about surging consumer prices.

Inflation has eased since then with some help from a sluggish global economy, bringing the annual rate to well below the 6.5-per-cent ceiling of the central bank’s target range.

That has allowed the central bank to test the boundaries on interest rates, ushering in what some economists predict might be a new era of lower borrowing costs for Brazil.

The size of Wednesday’s rate cut marked a slowdown in the pace of easing after two straight reductions of 75 basis points in March and April. The central bank signaled after its April policy meeting that future rate cuts might be more cautious.

The previous low for the Selic was set in 2009, when the central bank in the administration of former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva slashed the rate to 8.75 per cent to fend off the global financial crisis.

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