South Africa Retail Sales Expand for 1st Time in 3 Months

South African retail sales growth quickened for the first time in three months in November, signaling a recovery in consumer spending as inflation limits the room the Reserve Bank has to stimulate the economy.

Retail sales rose 3.4 percent from a year earlier, faster than the revised 0.9 percent pace in October, Pretoria-based Statistics South Africa said on its website today. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 12 economists was for growth of 1.5 percent. Sales rose 0.9 percent from a month earlier.

“An upside surprise is always a good thing and it uplifts sentiment,” Gina Schoeman, an economist at Citigroup Inc. in London, said by phone. “The Reserve Bank will continue to be concerned about the vulnerability of the consumer side.”

South Africa’s economy probably expanded at the slowest pace last year since the 2009 recession as consumers curbed spending because of accelerating inflation and rising joblessness. The Reserve Bank will probably keep the benchmark repurchase rate at 5 percent at next week’s monetary policy meeting with inflation near the top of the central bank’s 3 percent to 6 percent target range, according to all seven economists in a Bloomberg survey.

The inflation rate was unchanged at 5.6 percent in November as global food and fuel price increases put pressure on domestic prices. The rand has weakened 4.5 percent against the dollar this year, the worst performer of the 16 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg, adding to import costs.

Confidence Falls

Waning consumer confidence has hit retailers including Shoprite Holdings Ltd., South Africa’s largest retailer by market value. The stock fell the most in six years after Christmas sales growth slowed from a year earlier, the company said on Jan. 14. The FNB/BER consumer confidence index fell 2 points to minus 3 in the final three months of the year, Johannesburg-based First National Bank and the Bureau for Economic Research said last month.

The rand pared its decline after the data were released and was little changed at 8.8187 per dollar at 1:06 p.m. in Johannesburg. The yield on the rand debt due in 2021 rose 3 basis points to 6.38 percent.

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