By Jorge Iorio
BUENOS AIRES, April 22 (Reuters) - Argentina's economic activity and trade balance both missed analyst forecasts on Thursday, underscoring the challenge the South American country faces to revive its recession-hit economy as it battles a steep second wave of coronavirus cases.
The grains producing nation, a major exporter of soy and corn, saw economic activity drop 2.6% in February versus the same period a year earlier, the country's INDEC statistics agency said, steeper than a 1.9% fall predicted by analysts.
Activity also edged down 0.1% versus January, the first month-on-month fall since May last year.
The country's trade surplus for March, also reported on Thursday, was $400 million, well short of the $1.259 billion surplus analysts had expected, with a rise in imports weighing down the result despite a 30.5% year-on-year rise in exports.
The country is trying to build up its foreign currency reserves which have been depleted over the last two years by a series of currency and debt crises, a situation which has been sharpened further by the economic hit from the pandemic.
The Economy Ministry said that industrial sectors had been impacted by plant shutdowns scheduled in February, while hospitality had been affected by the ongoing health crisis.
"The greatest contractions occurred in hotels and restaurants and other service activities, areas affected by the pandemic," it said.
The economic activity index is seen as a early indicator of GDP and is closely watched by analysts and investors.
(Reporting by Jorge Iorio; Writing by Adam Jourdan)
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