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BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina's trade surplus slumped 59 percent in August from a year earlier to an unexpectedly low $568 million, the government statistics institute said on Monday.
The market had estimated a surplus of $983 million, according to the median forecast of seven analysts in a recent Reuters poll. But rising liquefied natural gas and other energy imports took a big bite out of the trade balance in August, the last full month of the Southern Hemisphere winter.
As the country's gas reserves dwindle, energy imports soared to $1.5 billion in August from $761 million in August 2012, a government statement said.
Argentina exported $7.735 billion worth of goods in August, while importing $7.167 billion worth, or 14 percent more than in August 2012.
An overvalued peso and inflation estimated by private economists at about 25 percent have made imports more attractive to consumers, while business complains that President Cristina Fernandez's policies discourage investment in manufacturing.
She won re-election in 2011 on promises of increasing the government's role in Latin America's No. 3 economy.
(Reporting by Alejandro Lifschitz; Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Leslie Adler, Theodore d'Afflisio and James Dalgleish)