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Source: Reuters
By: Hilary Burke and Walter Bianchi

Argentina's January trade surplus more than doubled in size to $1.16 billion from $436 million a year ago, amid high prices for agricultural exports and booming automotive sales, the government said on Monday.

The figure confirmed the number announced by President Cristina Fernandez last week.

Argentina's exports surged 67 percent in January to $5.64 billion, while imports jumped 52 percent year-on-year to $4.48 billion.

Export growth was driven by increased shipments of grains, vegetable oils and fats, and food-industry byproducts, while imports were dominated by intermediate and capital goods, the INDEC statistics office said in a statement.

"Last month's surplus benefited from record-high commodity prices, which more than offset an acceleration in imports," JPMorgan said in a report on Friday. "Following January's improvement, the trade surplus has now fully reversed last year's deterioration."

Latin America's No. 3 economy saw its trade surplus narrow to $11.15 billion in 2007, reaching its lowest level since 2001 as robust economic growth fueled more imports.

A Reuters poll of five local analysts had yielded a median forecast of $550 million for the January trade surplus, while a central bank poll BCRA30 put the figure at a median of $599 million.

In January, Argentina's automotive exports jumped 107 percent, according to the private Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

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