By Jeffrey T. Lewis
Argentina's economic activity expanded in December as retail sales and manufacturing advanced, while the country posted a trade surplus in January that almost tripled the surplus the same month a year earlier.
Activity increased a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in the December and contracted 0.3% from a year earlier, according to the monthly estimate released by Argentina's Instituto Nacional de Estadistica y Census, or Indec, on Friday. In November, activity fell a revised 1.6% in the month and contracted a revised 2% from a year earlier.
The country posted a trade surplus of $1.02 billion in January, from a surplus of $373 million a year earlier, Indec said. Exports declined slightly to $4.55 billion in the month from $4.59 billion a year earlier, while imports fell to $3.53 billion from $4.21 billion in the same period.
The fledgling government of President Alberto Fernandez needs the economy to recover to boost tax revenue and help pay down the country's debt, which the International Monetary Fund earlier this week said was unsustainable. The IMF called on the country's creditors to make a "meaningful contribution" to help restore the country's debt to a sustainable level.
Argentina, Latin America's third-biggest economy after Brazil and Mexico, has a long history of financial difficulties. The country has defaulted on debt at least eight times in the past 200 years and has received almost 30 IMF packages over the past six decades. The last major crisis occurred in 2001 when Argentina defaulted on about $100 billion in debt, the largest default at the time.
Retail sales increased 1.6% in December, after falling 6% in November, while manufacturing activity gained 0.8% in the last month of last year following a decline of 4.8% a month earlier.
(Ryan Dube contributed to this article.)
Write to Jeffrey T. Lewis at email@example.com