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Argentina Posted $529 Million Trade Surplus in December

Argentina’s trade surplus widened to $529 million in December from $329 million a year earlier after the government tightened restrictions on imports.

Exports fell 5 percent to $6 billion, while imports fell 9 percent to $5.5 billion, the national statistics institute said today in Buenos Aires. For 2012, the surplus widened to $12.7 billion from $10 billion in the previous year.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s government in February required importers to seek authorization from the federal tax agency before purchasing goods abroad. The government also imposed currency controls including a ban on dollar purchases for savings. This year’s trade surplus will widen to $13.3 billion, according to the budget.

“The import repression strategy and binding foreign exchange controls damped domestic consumer and business sentiment and disrupted a number of production, supply chains,” Alberto Ramos, an economist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. wrote in a report today. “A higher trade surplus came at the cost of a significant decline in investment and overall activity.”

The central bank in December estimated the economy expanded 2 percent in 2012, down from 8.9 percent in 2011.

Exports from Argentina, the world’s largest shipper of soybean oil, fell 3 percent last year to $81.2 billion from $84 billion in 2011, while imports fell 7 percent to $68.5 billion from $73.9 billion, the institute said.

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