CORRECTED-Brazilians withdraw record $5 bln from bank savings in first quarter

(In first paragraph corrects dollar amount to $629 million not billion)

BRASILIA, April 7 (Reuters) – Brazilian savings accounts shrank by 3.5 billion reais ($629 million) in March, figures showed on Wednesday, bringing net withdrawals in the first three months of the year to a quarterly record of 27.5 billion reais ($4.9 billion).

March marked the third month of withdrawals after the end of emergency government cash transfers forced consumers to dip deeper into savings. This was the first time in four years that savings account deposits have shrunk three months in a row.

The first quarter total was led by a 18.2 billion-reais net withdrawal in January, a monthly record since the central bank’s data series began in 1995.

Brazilians deposited a record net 166.3 billion reais into savings accounts last year. The COVID-19 pandemic initially hammered spending, then some consumers squirreled away part of the emergency government aid in the second half of the year.

That support for up to 30 million families expired on Dec. 31, and the data for the first quarter of this year shows consumers are eating in to the record mountain of savings amassed last year.

With a deadly second wave of the pandemic sweeping the country, an emergency cash transfer program worth up to 44 billion reais will be revived later this month.

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