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Source: Wall Street Journal, Market Watch
By: Shane Romig

BUENOS AIRES -(MarketWatch)- Argentina's economic growth cooled somewhat in the fourth quarter from the blistering growth seen in previous periods due to a slowdown in manufacturing and weaker consumer sentiment.

However, the economy still posted a wide expansion from a year earlier. Fourth quarter gross domestic product jumped 7.3% on the year and was up 0.8% on the quarter, the national statistics agency, Indec, reported Monday. That beat economists' expectations for 7% year-on-year growth.

During 2011, the economy expanded 8.9%, down from 9.2% in 2010.

Despite the strong numbers, there are signs that economic expansion is tapering off. Last year, the economy got a boost from strong exports, lax monetary and fiscal policy and a consumer-spending spree.

But Argentina's January monthly growth index, or EMAE, was up 5.5% on the year and just 0.4% on the month.

A closely watched gauge of consumer confidence published by Torcuato di Tella University deteriorated throughout the fourth quarter, while activity in the key automobile sector slumped in December.

The central bank's latest forecast puts GDP growth at 6% this year, though many economists are less optimistic.

The economy faces a headwind due to an uncertain economic outlook for its top trading partner, Brazil.

--Alberto Messer contributed to this article.