(Adds details on trade balance and fuel imports)
BRASILIA, Aug 1 (Reuters) - Brazil recorded its fifth straight monthly trade surplus in July, government data showed on Friday, but its trade balance stayed in the red for the year, hit by a drop in prices for its main exports.
The surplus of $1.575 billion for July was the second largest this year and almost double market expectations for a $830 million surplus, though less than June’s $2.37 billion surplus.
In the first seven months of the year, the commodities powerhouse has accumulated a trade deficit of $914 million, less than a fifth of the $4.972 billion deficit in the same period in 2013.
Brazil is struggling with weaker demand and lower prices for commodity exports such as soybeans, sugar and iron ore due to a sluggish global economy, a challenge for a country whose low productivity makes its manufactured goods less competitive than those made elsewhere.
The stronger trade results this year are due, in part, to a drop in costly fuel imports. So far this year, Brazil has had to pay $9.937 billion for fuel imports, down from $15.443 billion during the same period last year. (Reporting by Luciana Otoni; Writing by Alonso Soto; Editing by James Dalgleish; and Peter Galloway)