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BRASILIA: Brazilian retail sales slumped 6.1% in December, official figures showed on Wednesday, the biggest fall for that particular month and the second largest of all since comparable records began more than 20 years ago.

Researchers at government statistics agency IBGE said the fall was due a loss of momentum from the record level of sales in the preceding two months, the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic picking up, and high food price inflation.

The 6.1% monthly fall was second only to April’s 17.2% plunge at the height of the initial lockdown and quarantines last year, and far more than the 0.5% decline forecast in a Reuters poll of economists.

“The survey results tend to have minor variations, but the pandemic has changed that,” said IBGE survey manager Cristiano Santos. “December’s fall is a natural repositioning (from) the very high levels of October and November.” This meant that retail sales in Latin America’s largest economy rose 1.2% last year from 2019, the fourth year-on-year rise in a row, although the slowest of all.