UPDATE 1-Argentina's Fernandez says 2012 trade surplus $12.66 bln

Thu Jan 10, 2013 6:35pm EST

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BUENOS AIRES Jan 10 (Reuters) - Argentina's trade surplus widened to $12.66 billion in 2012 from $10.35 billion in 2011, President Cristina Fernandez said on Thursday.

"We finished the year with a trade surplus of $12.663 billion. In December alone the surplus was $502 million," the two-term Peronist leader said in televised remarks.

The South American grains exporting country reported a $280 million trade surplus in December 2011.

Growth in Latin America's No. 3 economy has slowed sharply due to sluggish global demand, high inflation, a poor grains harvest and the impact of government import and currency controls on business confidence and investment.

Eleven months ago the government imposed tough new rules on purchases abroad. Cooling domestic demand has also reduced imports.

The trade surplus is a source of foreign currency in a country that uses the central bank's foreign reserves to pay debt. Argentina has been virtually locked out of global credit markets since its massive sovereign debt default in 2002.

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