South African February Trade Gap Narrows as Exports Surge

South Africa’s trade deficit narrowed in February from a record as exports of metal and other commodities rebounded following a series of strikes.

The shortfall eased to 9.5 billion rand ($1 billion) last month from 24.5 billion rand in January, the Pretoria-based South African Revenue Service said today in an e-mailed statement. The median estimate of 10 economists in a Bloomberg survey was 12.5 billion rand.

South Africa’s trade balance is putting pressure on the current account gap, which is near a four-year high, and undermining the rand. The currency of Africa’s largest economy slumped 8.5 percent against the dollar this year, the worst performer of 16 major units tracked by Bloomberg.

The trade deficit in 2012 was more than six times larger than a year before as slower global growth and mining strikes curbed exports.

Exports climbed 17 percent to 62.3 billion rand in February from the previous month, led by an 80 percent increase in vehicle and aircraft shipments and a 26 percent gain in precious, semi-precious stones and metals, the revenue agency said. Shipments of mineral products, which includes coal and iron ore, rose 3 percent.

Total imports dropped 7.7 percent to 71.8 billion rand in the month, led by a 20 percent decline in prepared foods, beverages and tobacco, the agency said. Machinery imports dropped 15 percent.

The deficit on the current account, the broadest measure of trade in goods and services, will probably average 6.2 percent of gross domestic product in the next three years, up from an earlier estimate of 5.6 percent, the National Treasury said in its Budget Review last month. South Africa relies mainly on foreign investment in stocks and bonds to finance the shortfall, inflows that have fluctuated as investors sold riskier, emerging-market assets.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.