(Adds context on Brazil’s economy)
BRASILIA, March 31 (Reuters) - Economic activity in Brazil fell slightly more than expected in January, central bank data showed on Friday, in a poor start to the year for an economy expected to emerge from recession soon.
Economic activity fell 0.26 percent in January from December after seasonal adjustments, the central bank said on Friday, after a decline of 0.32 percent in the previous month.
The median forecast of economists in a Reuters poll predicted a drop of 0.10 percent.
Brazil’s economy is expected to grow around 0.5 percent in 2017 after shrinking by more than 3 percent in each of the past two years. The recession, the worst ever in Latin America’s largest country, fueled a political crisis as unemployment soared and many companies went bankrupt.
The IBC-Br index measures activity in agriculture, industry and services and is considered an advance indicator of gross domestic product data.
Data earlier this month showed that while industrial output recovered in January, retail sales and services activity fell more than expected, frustrating hopes of a recovery. Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles has repeated that Brazil is set to resume growth in the first quarter of 2017, but economists have cut their estimates for economic growth recently. (Reporting by Silvio Cascione; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)