SA may miss GDP growth targets

Fitch lowered the nation's rating to BBB, the second-lowest investment grade, in January. (Delwyn Verasamy)

Fitch lowered the nation's rating to BBB, the second-lowest investment grade, in January. (Delwyn Verasamy)

Data yesterday showed the economy expanded an annualized 0.9% in the first quarter, the slowest pace since the 2009 recession, according to Standard & Poor's and Fitch's ratings.

While there is "no imminent threat" to South Africa's credit rating, Fitch may lower its growth forecasts this year, said sovereign analyst Carmen Altenkirch in an interview in Marrakech, Morocco.

S&P credit analyst Christian Esters said the data increases "downside risks" to its estimates. S&P and Moody's Investors Service downgraded South Africa's debt by one level last year and kept the outlook at negative.

Fitch lowered the nation's rating to BBB, the second-lowest investment grade, in January.

"My biggest concern with South Africa is a perpetual underperformance of GDP, and the first quarter figures speak to this generally weaker-than-expected trend," Altenkirch said on Tuesday.

"If growth comes out weaker than expected for 2013 the fiscal numbers will look just that slightly worse."

In the budget published on February 27, the National Treasury forecast that Africa's largest economy would expand 2.7% this year and 3.5% in 2014.

It projected the budget gap would narrow to 4.6% in the year through March 2014, from 5.1% in the previous year, and to 3.9% in fiscal 2015.

Mining Unrest
​Those projections are under threat from mining strikes and a contraction in manufacturing.

Growth slowed to an annualized 0.9% in the first quarter from 2.1% in the previous three months, Statistics South Africa said in a report on Tuesday.

The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists was 1.6%.

"There is a likelihood GDP growth will be below the assumption that was underlying the budget for 2013, 2014, which in turn means that revenue will likely be somewhat lower and the deficit might be higher," Esters said in an interview in Marrakech.

"The downside risk has increased for GDP growth to be lower than our forecast," he said. Adding that S&P will monitor labor disputes in the mining industry in the next few months.
– Bloomberg

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