South Africa Trade Gap Narrows to 11 Billion Rand in May

South Africa’s trade gap narrowed in May because of lower imports of mineral products, which includes oil, helping to offset a slump in commodity exports.

The deficit eased to 11 billion rand ($1.1 billion) from 15 billion rand in April, 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 12 billion-rand shortfall.

South Africa posted a trade gap of 68.7 billion rand in the first five months of the year compared with 46.2 billion rand a year earlier, keeping pressure on the rand. The currency of Africa’s largest economy has slumped 15 percent against the dollar this year, the most of 16 major units monitored by Bloomberg, as the trade deficit worsened and strikes in the mining industry undermined the outlook for economic growth.

The improvement in the trade deficit in May may ease pressure on the current-account gap, which unexpectedly narrowed to 5.8 percent of gross domestic product in the first quarter from 6.5 percent in the previous three months. The government is forecasting the deficit will average 6.2 percent this year.

Imports dropped 5.8 percent to 77.5 billion rand in May from the previous month, led by a 16 percent decline in mineral-product purchases. Imports of vehicles, aircraft and vessels rose 10 percent.

Exports climbed 0.1 percent to 66.5 billion rand in the month, with shipments of vegetable products rising 37 percent and those of machinery and electrical appliances 14 percent. Exports of mineral products, which includes coal and iron ore, slid 8 percent, while precious and semi-precious stones and metals fell by the same magnitude.

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: Mike Cohen in Cape Town at mcohen21@bloomberg.net

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

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