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SANTIAGO, March 30 (Reuters) - Chilean manufacturing production rose 1.3 percent in February from a year earlier, beating expectations for a contraction and posting its first positive growth in five months.
An extra working day in February, due to the leap year, helped boost manufacturing output, said Chile's INE statistics agency.
Rising food and beverage, chemical, and non-metallic mineral production also helped lift output, while production of paper products and machinery was a weak spot.
Manufacturing output expanded 0.4 percent in February versus January, INE added.
Retails sales also rose, growing 7.4 percent from a year ago and the production of copper, Chile's key export, rose 0.2 percent.
"Importantly, the leap year effect likely played an important role in boosting the annual growth rates of the leading indicators of activity," Goldman Sachs wrote in a note to clients.
"Nonetheless, the magnitude of the positive surprises, especially on retail sales, points to a genuine improvement in the economy's momentum in February."
In addition to copper, the South American country is also an important producer of salmon, wine, wood products, and fruit. (Reporting by Gram Slattery and Anthony Esposito; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)