SURVEY : Argentina April Trade Surplus Seen Up; Barriers Stem Imports
05/21/2012| 05:12pm US/Eastern
Apr Mar Feb Jan Apr/11 FY/2011
Forecast: +$1.44B +$980M +$1.34B +$480M +$1.82B --
Actual: -- +$1.08B +$1.34B +$550M +$1.30B +$10.35B
By Shane Romig
Argentina likely saw its trade surplus swell in April as the government tightened the noose on imports in a bid to stem dollar outflows.
The government is expected to report a April trade surplus of $1.44 billion, up from $1.30 billion a year ago and just under $1 billion in March, according to economists polled by the central bank. Argentina's national statistics agency, Indec, is set to release its April foreign trade report Tuesday at 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT).
The surplus, however, may come in even higher. On May 15, President Cristina Kirchner said the country posted a trade surplus of $4.8 billion during the first four months of the year, which would imply that April's trade surplus was $1.8 billion.
According to the median estimate of more than 50 banks, economic research firms and universities surveyed by the Central Bank of Argentina, the government is expected to report exports of $6.67 billion and imports of $5.23 billion in April. That compares with exports of $6.28 billion and imports of $5.20 billion in March.
In April 2011, exports totaled $7.15 billion and imports $5.66 billion, according to Indec.
In recent months, the government has stepped up barrier to stem imports that need to be paid for in hard currency. Heavy demand for dollars has put the local currency under pressure and threatened the government's efforts to build up foreign reserves. The central bank's international reserves are a key source of financing for the administration.
Earlier this year, the government started requiring that nearly all goods and services purchased abroad must first be vetted by a host of agencies before they can be brought into the country. This has been effective in putting the lid on swelling imports, but has stoked trade friction.
In March, the U.S., the European Union and a dozen other countries issued a joint statement calling on Argentina to take immediate steps to remove or end "import-restrictive measures and practices" that may violate global trade rules.
-By Shane Romig, Dow Jones Newswires; 54-11-4103-6738; firstname.lastname@example.org