South African February Trade Deficit Narrows From 3-Year High

South Africa’s trade deficit narrowed in February from a three-year high in the previous month as vehicle and machinery exports climbed.

The shortfall eased to 7.5 billion rand ($976 million) from 13.5 billion rand in January, the Pretoria-based South African Revenue Service said in an e-mailed statement today. The median estimate of 11 economists in a Bloomberg survey was for a deficit of 5 billion rand.

An improvement in exports last month may help to narrow the current account deficit, the broadest measure of trade of goods and services, and underpin the rand’s gains. The current account gap eased to 3.6 percent of gross domestic product in the fourth quarter from 4.1 percent in the previous three months, the central bank said on March 19.

Exports rose 4.2 percent to 56.3 billion rand in February from the previous month, led by a 73 percent surge in vehicles and aircrafts and a 34 percent increase in machinery and electrical appliances. Imports fell 5.6 percent to 63.7 billion rand, as machinery shipments plunged 22 percent.

The current account deficit will probably widen to 4.3 percent this year as consumer demand for imports surges, according to the government. Credit growth accelerated 7.9 percent in February, the fastest pace since 2009, the central bank said today.

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

To contact the reporter on this story: Andres R. Martinez in Johannesburg at amartinez28@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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