S. Africa Retail Sales Slow in March on Inflation, Jobless Rate

South African retail-sales growth slowed in March from a year earlier as inflation remained close to the top of the central bank’s target and a 25 percent jobless rate hurt consumer spending.

Retail sales rose 2.8 percent from a revised 3.9 percent in February, Pretoria-based Statistics South Africa said on its website today. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 16 economists was 2.4 percent. Sales decreased 0.9 percent from a month earlier.

“Lower-income consumers are facing balance sheet constraints that will curb their spending,” Peter Worthington, an analyst at Absa Capital, said in a note to clients.

Consumer confidence slumped to a nine-year low and demand for credit fell to the lowest level in about a year in March as inflation hovered near the top of the the Reserve Bank’s 3 percent to 6 percent target. Policy makers have said inflation isn’t allowing them to stimulate the economy, which is growing close to the slowest pace since a 2009 recession.

The Reserve Bank will probably hold the benchmark borrowing rate at 5 percent next week, according to the median estimate of 10 analysts in a Bloomberg survey. The FNB/BER consumer confidence index dropped to minus 7, the lowest in nine years, in the first quarter.

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

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