UPDATE 1-Argentine economic activity grows during bumper soy harvest
(Recasts with private economist comments, other data)
By Sarah Marsh
BUENOS AIRES May 26 (Reuters) - Argentina said economic activity grew a stronger-than-expected 2.0 percent in March, which private economists put down to a pickup in consumption and a bumper soy harvest, although they cautioned the data may be overly optimistic.
Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a 0.8 percent rise in the monthly EMAE economic activity index, which is a close proxy for gross domestic product, in part due to a weak performance in the same month last year.
Official data, especially for inflation that is running in double digits, has lost much credibility since President Cristina Fernandez took office in 2007.
The government does not publish a breakdown of its economic activity index or any explanation. Analysts say it is likely skewed because it uses official inflation data.
Still, strategist Alejo Costa at local investment bank Puente said early economic indicators for sectors like construction and retail suggested there was a slight uptick in Latin America's third largest economy.
Supermarket sales were up 7.2 percent on the month in March after falling in the previous two months, while the construction sector grew 1.6 percent in seasonally adjusted terms.
"The economy seems to be picking up slightly but we don't believe this will be enough for it to have sizeable growth this year," said Costa. "It's hard to know what is behind this figure." Continuación...