* January economic activity beats expectations
* February industrial production sinks 4.4 pct
* Boom over in Latin America's third-biggest economy
By Hilary Burke
BUENOS AIRES, March 22 Argentina's economic
performance was patchy in the first two months of 2013 after
January economic activity beat expectations and February
industrial production fell sharply, government data showed on
A long boom in Latin America's No. 3 economy ran out of
steam last year due to sluggish global demand, high inflation, a
weak 2011/12 grains harvest and the impact of government import
and currency controls on investment.
Growth in gross domestic product shrank to 1.9 percent in
2012 versus 8.9 percent a year earlier.
But in January, economic activity accelerated to 3.2 percent
year-on-year, beating the 1.7 percent median
forecast in a Reuters poll. President Cristina Fernandez
announced the figure a day ahead of time to underscore the
Argentina's economy grew 0.4 percent in January versus
December, according to the EMAE economic activity index, which
is a close proxy for GDP. This compared with an 0.2 percent
increase in December versus November.
But economic consultant Federico Thomsen said it was too
early to know what 2013 would bring.
"January economic data, heavily influenced by the (southern
hemisphere) summer holidays, are never representative of the
year ahead," Thomsen wrote in a recent report.
In February, industrial production took an unexpected dive.
Factory output last month fell 4.4 percent versus a year
earlier, coming in far below the median forecast in a
Reuters poll for 0.8 percent growth.
Output, which showed the biggest decline since September
2012, was dragged down by a nearly 25 percent drop in steel and
Industrial production also fell 1.5 percent in February
compared with January, seasonally adjusted, the INDEC statistics
In January, industrial production had inched higher by 0.2
percent year-on-year and risen 0.6 percent versus December.
Factory output fell 1.2 percent in 2012, marking the first
decline since a wrenching economic crisis a decade earlier.
Also on Friday, the government reported that the country's
current account deficit narrowed slightly in the fourth quarter
to $1.02 billion from a revised $1.08 billion
during the same period of 2011.
In 2012 as a whole, the current account balance of payments
ran a surplus of $479 million compared with a
revised deficit of $1.57 billion in 2011.