According to a monthly report published by the Brazilian Supermarkets Association (Abras), sales from the first quarter of 2006 were hit by various seasonal factors such as the late Easter and fell by 4.83% compared with the first quarter of last year.

March supermarket sales declined by 10.1% compared to March 2005, again due to the late Easter. However, sales in real terms were up 6.25% from February because March contained more shopping days than February, Abras said.

It is expected that falling interest rates will stimulate consumer spending in Brazil. Since September 2005, the Brazilian central bank has made seven consecutive interest rate cuts. On 19 April the interest rate was cut to 15.75%.