• Shipments of precious metals and stones decreased from June
  • Cumulative trade surplus for the year is 17.4 billion rand

South Africa’s trade surplus shrank in July as the exports of precious metals and stones, which include gold and diamonds, fell.

The surplus decreased to 5.2 billion rand from 12.5 billion rand in June, the Pretoria-based South African Revenue Service said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday. The median of nine economist estimates compiled by Bloomberg was for a surplus of 8 billion rand.

The rand’s 27 percent drop against the dollar in 2015 has boosted exports, even as demand in South Africa’s largest trading partners was subdued. Low metal prices and the worst drought in more than a century have weighed on Africa’s most-industrialized economy, which will probably not grow at all this year, according to the central bank.

“External demand seems to have retained some resilience,” Manisha Morar, an economist at ETM Analytics in Johannesburg, said by phone. “‘We do see some risks to exports going forward.”

The cumulative surplus for 2016 is 17.4 billion rand compared with a deficit of 24.7 billion rand in the same period last year, the revenue agency said. The surplus may help narrow the shortfall on the current account, which swelled to 5 percent of gross domestic product in the three months through March.

Exports fell 9 percent to 95.7 billion rand as shipments of precious metals and stones and base metals declined. Imports were 2.4 percent lower at 90.5 billion rand as machinery and electronics and equipment components decreased.

The rand weakened 1.2 percent to 14.6772 per dollar as of 3 p.m. in Johannesburg on Wednesday. Yields on rand-denominated government bonds due 2026 rose ten basis points to 9.08 percent.

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

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