UPDATE 2-Argentina economy jumps 17.9% in Q2, rebounding from pandemic

(Rewrites with official data)

BUENOS AIRES, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Argentina’s economy jumped 17.9% year on year in the second quarter, ahead of a median forecast, rebounding strongly after a sharp contraction in the same period of 2020 when the economy was hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The year-on-year rise was the highest in recent records for the country, a major exporter of grains and meat, and came in above a median analyst forecast of 17.3%. The economy, however, dipped 1.4% against the previous quarter.

“The strong rebound was driven by the construction sector that was flying in the second quarter,” said Lucio Garay Mendez, economist from consultancy EcoGo, adding though that growth had been hit by COVID-19 restrictions toughened during the quarter.

“That was a result of the intensification of restrictions on mobility with the arrival of the second wave,” he added.

A survey of 14 analysts had given estimates ranging from a minimum advance of 14% to a maximum of 18% for the April-June quarter.

Argentina, which has been mired in recession since 2018, is now trying to claw its way back to growth after the impact of the pandemic, which has badly hit the popularity of the center-left government of Alberto Fernandez.

On Tuesday morning, the government unveiled plans to loosen pandemic restrictions, including gradually easing what have been strict border controls, in a bid to revive economic activity and bolster its popularity with pandemic-weary voters.

Reporting by Hernan Nessi; Editing by Walter Bianchi, Bernadette Baum and Mark Porter