(Adds comments from second Treasury official in paragraphs 1, 7-9)
BUENOS AIRES, May 11 (Reuters) - Argentine Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne said on Thursday he was confident the economy would grow more than 3 percent this year, while another treasury official said the economy had rebounded in March after declining the prior two months.
The country’s center-right government, which is banking on attracting foreign investment and an infrastructure push to revive the economy after a deep recession last year, has long held a forecast for 3.5 percent growth in 2017. Many analysts see that goal as too optimistic.
“I am very sure that the Argentine economy will grow more than 3 percent this year,” Dujovne told an investors’ conference in Buenos Aires. “We are in a recuperation phase, which is going to accelerate.”
Gross domestic product is seen growing 2.7 percent in 2017, according to a central bank poll of analysts released earlier this month, a tick slower than the 2.8 percent estimated in the bank’s previous survey.
Argentina’s economy contracted 2.3 percent in 2016, as a currency devaluation and the elimination of utilities subsidies triggered inflation of around 40 percent, denting consumption.
The economy exited recession with modest growth in the final two quarters of last year, and market-friendly President Mauricio Macri is hoping a recovery can boost his coalition’s chances in October’s midterm elections, giving him room to finish his reform agenda.
Speaking to reporters later on Thursday, Treasury Ministry chief adviser Guido Sandleris said monthly economic data would likely show that the economy expanded 1.7 percent in March compared with the previous month, after declining 0.4 percent and 1.9 percent in January and February, respectively.
He added that the economy would grow 0.8 percent in the first quarter compared with the fourth quarter of 2016, and that growth would accelerate in the second half as salary increases linked to collective bargaining agreements kicked in, boosting consumption.
“No one disputes that we’ve exited recession and the economy is recovering,” Sandleris said, adding that full-year 2017 growth would likely be around 3 percent.
Government statistics agency Indec is expected to publish March economic activity data on May 23. First-quarter growth data is expected on June 21. (Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)