South Africa Posts Biggest Trade Gap in 10 Months as Exports Dip

South Africa posted a 9.6 billion-rand ($1.14 billion) trade deficit in October, the biggest in 10 months, as mineral exports slumped and fuel imports climbed.

The shortfall compared with a surplus of 2.5 billion rand in September, the Pretoria-based South African Revenue Service said in an e-mailed statement today. The median estimate of 11 economists surveyed by Bloomberg was for a 2 billion-rand deficit.

Higher crude prices and a weaker rand have boosted import costs in South Africa, an oil importer, widening the deficit on the current account to 3.3 percent of gross domestic product in the second quarter. Mining production declined 17.4 percent in the third quarter from the previous three months, the statistics agency said yesterday. Gold and platinum make up about a fifth of the nation’s exports, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Last month’s deficit “was mainly due to increased imports of mineral products, base metals, machinery and electrical appliances, vehicles and aircrafts and original equipment components,” the revenue service said. There were also “decreased exports of mineral products, products of the chemicals or allied industries, precious and semi-precious stones and metals and machinery and electrical appliances.”

The rand has weakened 21 percent against the dollar this year, the most of 16 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg.

Exports fell 9.7 percent to 61.2 billion rand in October from the previous month as shipments of precious and semi-precious stones and metals declined by 25 percent, the revenue service said. Shipments of chemical products dropped 41 percent.

Imports rose 8.5 percent to 70.8 billion rand in the same period, with purchases of mineral products such as oil rising 14 percent and base-metal imports surging 33 percent.

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

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