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The change in the ranking is much due to the fact that public sector banks have been much more aggressive lenders than private banks in the last few years, with the government using these banks in its efforts to inject life into the troubled economy.
Caixa ended March with 1.24tn reais (US$347bn) in total assets, an increase of 3% compared to December. Itaú saw a 6% decrease in assets in the first quarter of 2016, dropping to 1.21tn reais, according to business daily Valor Econômico.
The figures come from the central bank, which does not consider other activities in which the banks participate, such as insurance.
Now that Caixa has moved up on the list, the top two ranked banks in the country are both government-controlled. Banco do Brasil has maintained the top spot with 1.44tn reais in assets at the end of Q1.