SA trade gap halves as vehicle imports slump

South Africa’s trade gap narrowed by half in May as a slump in vehicle imports offset a drop in mining exports that were hit by a five-month platinum-industry strike.

The deficit shrunk to R6.57-billion from R13-billion in April, the Pretoria-based South African Revenue Service said in an emailed statement on Monday. The median estimate of 14 economists surveyed by Bloomberg was for a shortfall of R12-billion.

A strike by more than 70 000 workers at the South African operations of Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin, which ended last week, halted production and cost the companies about R24-billion in lost revenue, according to the Chamber of Mines. That has offset an improvement in export competitiveness spurred by a 1.1% slump in the rand against the dollar this year.

“The relatively weaker rand has not produced a meaningful boost in export demand,” Kamilla Kaplan, an economist at Investec in Johannesburg, said in an emailed note to clients before the data was released.

Exports increased 0.6% to R78.6-billion as shipments of precious metals and stones fell 17% and mineral products, which include coal and iron ore, rose 5.5%.

Imports decreased by 5.9% to R84.9-billion as purchases of vehicles and transportation equipment plunged 22%.

The monthly trade figures are often volatile, reflecting the timing of shipments of commodities such as oil and diamonds.– Bloomberg

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