UPDATE 1-Argentina's August trade surplus jumps; masks export slump
(Adds export and import data)
BUENOS AIRES, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Argentina's trade surplus leapt 145 percent in August from the same month a year earlier to $899 million, though a 12 percent fall in exports highlighted the ailing health of Latin America's third biggest economy which is in recession.
Imports fell 20 percent to $5.7 billion as the government tightened trade controls to defend its dwindling hard currency reserves after it defaulted on its debt again in late July and consumer demand weakened.
The surplus exceeded market expectations. The median forecast of 10 analysts polled by Reuters was for a surplus of $575 million. Projections ranged from $331 million to $850 million.
Argentine exports, which fell 12 percent year-on-year to $6.60 billion, have been hurt by low global grains prices and a recession in Brazil, Argentina's main trading partner. Argentina is one of the world's leading exporters of corn and soybeans.
Economy Minister Axel Kicillof last week forecast 2014 would close with a trade surplus of $7.59 billion, rising to $9.20 billion in 2015. (Reporting by Alejandro Lifschitz; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Hugh Bronstein, James Dalgleish and Chizu Nomiyama)
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