By Elinor Comlay
MEXICO CITY, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Mexico's Cemex, one of the world's biggest cement companies, reported a smaller fourth-quarter loss on Thursday as it hiked prices and cement sales picked up in its foreign markets.
The Monterrey-based company said its loss narrowed to $255 million from $494 million in the year-earlier quarter, although it was wider than the $119 million loss analysts surveyed by Reuters expected, due to higher expenses.
Cemex shares fell 0.84 percent to 16.62 pesos in morning trading, while Mexico's IPC stock index was up 0.29 percent.
Net sales rose by 4 percent to $3.9 billion, helped by higher prices and a pickup in cement volumes sold in the United States and Europe, although net sales in Mexico, which make up about one-fifth of the company's total sales, dipped 6 percent from the year-earlier quarter.
Infrastructure spending in Mexico last year was slow to get under way after a new government took office, but Cemex said in its statement that infrastructure spending increased in the second half of the year.
Mexican cement volumes have also been affected by the debt default of the country's three biggest homebuilders.
"The formal residential sector still reflects high home inventories and financing constraints," the company said in its statement.
Cemex said operating core profit, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, was up 4 percent at $642 million.