(Adds poverty data, details of economic activity report)
BUENOS AIRES, March 28 Argentina's economic
activity grew in January compared with the same month the prior
year and the country's poverty rate fell in the second half of
2016, government data showed on Tuesday, suggesting the economy
has begun a rebound after a tough recession.
Economic activity was 1.1 percent higher in January than in
January 2016, the first year-on-year growth since last March.
The economy contracted 0.5 percent from December, however, which
showed the recovery was still fragile after the economy grew
month-on-month in November and December.
Center-right President Mauricio Macri's administration is
hoping an economic recovery ahead of midterm elections in
October can boost flagging approval ratings. Macri has also said
he wants to be evaluated based on his progress in reducing the
ranks of the poor toward his stated goal of "zero poverty."
Tuesday's data from government statistics agency Indec
showed that 30.3 percent of Argentines lived in poverty in the
second half of 2016, down from 32.2 percent in the second
quarter. The drop came as Argentina's economy grew 0.1 percent
in the third quarter and 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter,
emerging from a sharp recession in the first half.
The economy was flat in December compared with December
2015, an upward revision from Indec's prior estimate for a 0.1
After taking office in December 2015, Macri began a revamp
of Indec, which was accused of manipulating data under previous
populist President Christina Fernandez.
The second-quarter poverty data, published last September,
was the first released by Indec since October 2013, when it said
fewer than 5 percent of Argentines lived in poverty.
Private data published in March by the Catholic University
of Argentina, however, showed 32.9 percent of Argentines lived
in poverty, up from 32.6 percent in April and 29 percent in
2015. The university's data was seen as a benchmark in the
absence of reliable data under Fernandez.
Macri has implemented market-friendly policies designed to
cut the fiscal deficit and attract foreign investment. Some of
those policies, including a reduction in subsidies for
electricity and gas, contributed to inflation of more than 40
percent last year.
The economy fell 2.3 percent in 2016 overall. Foreign
investment has been slow to arrive, but the government has
boosted infrastructure spending this year in a bid to jump-start
the economy toward its goal of 3.5 percent growth in 2017.
Economists see it slightly lower at 3 percent.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew