Factory output shrank 1.2 percent from 2011, the first contraction since a 10.6 percent decline in 2002 after the country defaulted on $95 billion of bonds and abandoned a decade-old currency peg that fixed the peso at par with the dollar.
In December, output fell 3.4 percent from a year earlier and 0.6 percent from November, the national statistics agency reported today. The year-on-year contraction compares with the median estimate of a 0.2 percent drop by eight economists surveyed by Bloomberg.
South America’s second-biggest economy probably expanded as much as 2 percent last year, the smallest growth since 2009, according to Alberto Bernal, the head of fixed-income research at Bulltick Capital Markets in Miami.
The country’s trade surplus widened in 2012 to $12.7 billion from $10 billion the previous year. Exports fell 3 percent after drought cut corn and soybean crops, while demand from Brazil, the country’s biggest trade partner, waned. Imports dropped 7 percent, the institute reported yesterday.
“Growth will accelerate to about 4 percent this year because a bigger harvest will boost exports and Brazilian industry will improve, helping Argentina,” Bernal said in a telephone interview today.
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