(Recasts with comments from Cemex executives and analysts)
MEXICO CITY, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Mexican cement maker Cemex posted a surprise quarterly net loss of $105 million on Thursday, stung by higher energy costs in Mexico even as sales jumped.
Analysts had expected Monterrey-based Cemex, which has been battling to slash debt and regain its investment-grade credit rating, to post a fourth-quarter net profit of $179 million.
In the fourth quarter of 2016, Cemex had posted a net profit of $214 million.
Cemex shares were down nearly 4 percent at 1734 GMT.
Maher Al-Haffar, a Cemex executive vice president, said Mexico's high energy prices largely accounted for a 15 percent hike in the company's spending on expenses such as fuel and electricity in the fourth quarter, and a 13 percent jump for the year.
Fourth-quarter consolidated net sales were $3.4 billion, up 8 percent from the same period in 2016.
Cemex's operating earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) slipped 5 percent to $625 million during the fourth quarter.
Barclays said in January it expected Cemex's EBITDA to grow this year as interest expenses on debt come down.
The global cement industry is preparing for a slightly better year in 2018 as developed markets recover in Europe and the United States, the head of the World Cement Association said in January.
Higher U.S. construction spending, which increased more than expected in December as investment in private projects rose, benefits Cemex's unit, which is becoming increasingly important.
The United States accounts for around 20 percent of Cemex's operating profit.
Some 40 percent of the company's operating profit comes from Mexico, a market facing considerable uncertainty this year with presidential elections and the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement looming. (Reporting by Anthony Esposito, Christine Murray and Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Will Dunham and Leslie Adler)