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UPDATE 1-Brazil may trade surplus widens, but bigger picture not as rosy

Mateus Maia and Jamie McGeever

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BRASILIA, June 3 (Reuters) - Brazil's trade surplus widened in May to $6.42 billion, the Economy Ministry said on Monday, its biggest so far this year and driven by a 5.6% rise in exports from the month before.

Exports totaled $21.39 billion while imports totaled $14.97 billion, with the surplus in May bringing the year-to-date surplus up to $22.81 billion.

The biggest increase in exports compared with the same month last year was in manufactured products, which rose by 29.5%, and semi-manufactured goods, which were up 15.4%, the Economy Ministry said.

But if Brazil's trade position improved in May from April, the surplus posted over the January-May period was smaller than the same period a year ago, suggesting net trade has been a drag on growth so far this year.

The $22.81 billion surplus in the first five months of this year was down 5.9% from $24.24 billion in the first five months of last year, the Economy Ministry said.

In the 12 months to May, the surplus of $57.23 billion was 8.0% smaller than the $62.20 billion surplus registered in the same period the year before. Exports rose, but not as much as imports, the data showed.

The central bank's regular survey of financial institutions on Monday showed that economists expect Brazil to post a trade surplus of $50.5 billion this year. (Reporting by Mateus Maia and Jamie McGeever Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Diane Craft)