Brazil's Meirelles says S&P downgrade will not affect growth

By Rodrigo Viga Gaier

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles said on Saturday that a recent decision by Standard & Poor's to cut the nation's credit rating will not affect 2018 economic growth.

Speaking to journalists in Rio de Janeiro, Meirelles added that he was expecting close to 2.5 million jobs to be created in Brazil this year and gross domestic product growth of around 3 percent.

"The reaction to the rating is greater than the rating itself," Meirelles said. "The question is, 'Will this have an impact on growth?' And the answer is, 'No, growth will continue.'"

On Thursday, ratings agency S&P lowered its long-term sovereign debt rating for Brazil to BB- from BB, as doubts grow about a presidential election in October and a push to trim the country's costly pension system.

Markets have so far shrugged off the downgrade, which was widely expected after Congress delayed a pension reform vote from 2017 to this year, making its passage less likely.

On Saturday, Meirelles reiterated to journalists that it was key for the government to pass the pension reform, a task which is becoming more difficult as elections approach and politicians seek to distance themselves from the unpopular measure.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by David Gregorio)

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