BUENOS AIRES, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Argentina's capital outflows were 84 percent lower in 2012 compared with a year earlier due to tough currency controls imposed by the government to stem capital flight, central bank data showed on Thursday.
Capital outflows shrank to $3.40 billion last year compared with $21.50 billion in 2011. In the fourth quarter, the central bank actually reported net inflows of $163 million.
Capital flight surged ahead of an October 2011 vote as Argentines bought dollars on a bet that the peso currency would soon begin to depreciate at a faster pace.
Just after winning re-election in a landslide, President Cristina Fernandez restricted foreign currency purchases to stem capital flight and protect the central bank's foreign reserves, which are used to pay government debt.
The controls have been steadily tightened and now amount to a virtual ban on foreign currency purchases.
The controls, import curbs and stricter rules for repatriating export earnings are all aimed at keeping dollars in the country. But many economists say the measures have also hurt business and consumer confidence while quickening an economic slowdown.
(Reporting by Hilary Burke) Keywords: ARGENTINA ECONOMY/OUTFLOWS
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