October 23, 2018 / 8:51 PM / 21 days ago

UPDATE 1-Argentina posts first trade surplus since December 2016

(Adds background, analyst comments)

By Scott Squires

BUENOS AIRES, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Argentina had a trade surplus of $314 million in September, official statistics agency Indec said on Tuesday, the first since December 2016 and an early sign the devaluation of the peso currency has benefited the country’s exporters.

Economists say September’s trade balance improvement was driven by significant declines in imports of capital and consumer goods, as well as a more competitive peso currency that has benefited exporters.

“The trade surplus in September was the first sign of the expected trade and current account adjustment following the large currency devaluation and sharp slowdown in investment spending,” Goldman Sachs economist Alberto Ramos said in a research note.

Argentina’s peso currency has roughly halved in value against the U.S. dollar so far this year, prompting the South American country to turn to the International Monetary Fund for a $57 billion standby financing deal, the largest in the Fund’s history.

Argentina’s agriculture sector withered early in 2018 after the worst drought in 60 years stemmed grain exports and dragged the country’s economy into recession.

Last month, the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange said farmers could expect favorable weather conditions to bring record grain harvests in the 2018-19 harvest season, contributing to a larger trade surplus next year.

“The expected significant increase in harvest yields in 2019 should contribute to boost exports of agricultural goods and support further trade and current account adjustment,” Ramos said. (Reporting by Scott Squires Editing by Marguerita Choy and Tom Brown)

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