/ 31 October 2007

September trade deficit lower at R4,3-billion

South Africa recorded a trade deficit of R4,3-billion in September, compared to August’s R9,1-billion shortfall, the South African Revenue Service (Sars) said on Wednesday.

Economists polled by Reuters last week had forecast a deficit of R6,4-billion, but the number is notoriously volatile and hard to predict.

Compared with the previous month, exports declined by 6,2% while imports fell by 14,4%, largely due to a sharp drop in shipment of mineral imports.

The cumulative trade deficit for the first nine months of the year was R55,1-billion compared to R42,5-billion during the same period in 2006, Sars said.

Ian Marsberg, an economist at Absa, said they had expected the deficit to be about R4,5-billion.

”I don’t think it would have any bearing on the interest rate decision in December. But it is good news,” he said.

Russell Lamberti, an economist at ETM, said: ”It is a pleasant surprise, but we don’t expect it to continue indefinitely. It is largely driven by weaker imports on the oil, machinery and equipment accounts. However, it does reveal the same broad trend that we are still in for some pretty large monthly deficits.”

Nicky Weimar, an economist at Nedbank, said the figure was ”very encouraging” and said it was mainly as a result in the drop in oil imports.

”But we’ll have to see in the coming months if it is sustainable. I am not sure if it would have an impact on the interest rate decision because the numbers are very volatile.”

Nico Kelder, an economist at the Efficient Group, said the figure was better than expected, mainly because mineral product imports didn’t increase as strongly.

”We anticipated it coming off, but not to this extent. It probably won’t last, though, as we have been seeing these kinds of spikes and drops for a while.” – Reuters, I-Net Bridge