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Growing Middle Class Fuels Brazil's Economy
CNBC.com | April 28, 2011 | 11:39 AM EDT

There are 210 million registered cell phones in Brazil, 10 million more than the estimated population of the entire country.

More proof to this traveler that Brazil is a country bursting at the seams.

From the bustle of Sao Paulo, where a vista of modern steel and glass skyscrapers seems endless, to its vast farmlands, Brazilian optimism is on the rise and so is its growing consumer class.

They are consuming everything from cell phones and laptops to Coca-Cola and Nikes, and they were out en masse at the Morumbi shopping center in Sao Paulo on a recent Sunday.

As the developed world struggles, Brazil grows faster, on the strength of its export economy, but also rising domestic demand. Its middle class continues to expand — and spend. An estimated 35 million people joined the middle class between 2003 to 2009, and 20 million more are expected to be included by 2014. Unemployment is at a relatively low 6.5 percent.

The Brazil story is not without its problems — inflation is running at more than 6.4 percent, near the top of its central bank's target range, its currency is arguably overvalued and real estate has seen outsized gains that seem unsustainable.

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