South African trade balance swings to surplus as exports rebound

December 31, 2015, 2:39pm

Port of Durban. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

By Michael Cohen, Bloomberg Business

South Africa posted its first trade surplus in five months in November as exports of precious metals, such as gold and platinum, picked up and imports slumped.

The trade surplus of 1.8 billion rand ($115 million) compared with a revised 21.6 billion rand deficit in October, the Pretoria-based South African Revenue Service said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday.

The median of nine economist estimates compiled by Bloomberg was for a shortfall of 6.6 billion rand.

The rebound in exports helped to narrow the deficit in the first 11 months of the year to 58.2 billion rand from 100.5 billion rand in the same period of 2014.

That benefit may be short-lived as falling metal prices, low global demand and power shortages keep exports under pressure despite the rand’s 25 percent drop against the dollar this year.

Exports rose 10 percent to 94.7 billion rand in November from the previous month, led by a 52 percent increase in shipments of precious metals and stones.

Imports dropped 14 percent to 92.9 billion rand as purchases of vehicle component parts slumped 45 percent.

The shortfall on the current account, the broadest measure of trade in goods and services, widened to 4.1 percent of gross domestic product in the three months through September.

The rand fell 0.8 percent to 15.4183 against the dollar as of 2:37 p.m. in Johannesburg. Monthly trade figures are often volatile, reflecting the timing of shipments of commodities such as oil and diamonds.