BUENOS AIRES, June 24 (Reuters) - Argentina's May industrial production rose an unexpectedly strong 5.2 percent from a year earlier, its best performance in nearly two years thanks to a rebound in automobile output, government data showed on Monday.
The figure came in well above the 3.0 percent median growth forecast given in a Reuters poll, in which six analysts gave estimates ranging from 0.3 percent to 3.5 percent.
Last month's industrial output rose 0.7 percent compared with April, seasonally adjusted, the INDEC national statistics institute said.
Argentina's economy, the third-biggest in Latin America, has slowed sharply in the past year after booming during most of the last decade. Analysts ascribe this to soft global demand, high inflation and the impact of currency and trade controls on investment.
May's year-on-year figure was the highest since July 2011, when industrial production rose 7.1 percent. Last month's numbers were likely boosted by a low base of comparison since output sank 4.6 percent in May 2012, economists said.
Automobile production jumped 30.9 percent last month from a year earlier, compensating for declines seen in a majority of sectors. Auto output also rose 7.0 percent versus April.
Last year, car shipments to top market Brazil dropped, hurting overall production.
In the first five months of the year, industrial production rose 0.6 percent versus the same period of 2012, INDEC said.