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UPDATE 1-India's Sept trade deficit $18.1 bln, widest in 11 mths

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NEW DELHI, Oct 11 (Reuters) - India's annual exports fellfor the fifth consecutive month and imports rose in September,pushing the trade deficit to its widest in 11 months in thelatest bleak data from Asia's third largest economy as itstruggles to balance its finances.

Exports contracted to $23.7 billion, 11 percent lower thanlast year, the government said in a statement, without givingdetails of which sectors were worst hit. Imports rose for thefirst time since April, driven by an almost 31 percent jump incrude oil purchases for the energy-hungry economy.

September's $18.1 billion trade deficit was the biggestsince October 2011, a worrying development for the governmentwhile it seeks to stave of the threat of a downgrade to India'ssovereign debt rating.

Massive asset purchase programmes unveiled by the centralbanks in the United States, Europe and Japan are expected tostoke higher global commodity prices, which would inflateIndia's import bills.

Heeding warnings by Standard & Poor's and Fitch that thefiscal and current account deficits could trigger a creditdowngrade, the government has recently taken unpopular stepssuch as hiking diesel prices and allowing foreign supermarketsin the retail sector.

(Reporting by Arup Roychoudhury; Editing by Frank JackDaniel/Simon Cameron-Moore)

((arup.roychoudhury@thomsonreuters.com)(+91 11 41781007)(Reuters Messaging:arup.roychoudhury.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: INDIA ECONOMY/