S. Africa Retail-Sales Growth Slows in December on Prices

South African retail-sales growth slowed in December as high unemployment and quickening inflation curbed consumer demand.

Retail sales rose 2.3 percent from a year earlier, below a revised 3.6 percent pace in November, Pretoria-based Statistics South Africa said on its website today. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 15 economists was 1.6 percent. Sales increased 1 percent from a month earlier.

“It confirms the gradual slowdown in the consumption growth is expected to continue into 2013,” Ilke van Zyl, an economist at Absa Group Ltd., said by phone after the data was released.

Household sentiment slipped to the lowest level since 2008 last year as growth in the continent’s largest economy slowed and inflation quickened toward the top of the central bank’s target range. Unemployment at 24.9 percent in the fourth quarter is the highest of 39 emerging markets tracked by Bloomberg. Weak consumer spending, which makes up about two-thirds of expenditure, may keep the central bank from raising interest rates.

The economy will expand 2.6 percent this year, near the estimated growth of 2.5 percent last year, which would be the lowest since a 2009 recession, the central bank said Jan. 24. The inflation rate rose to 5.7 percent in December and Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., which supplies about 95 percent of the nation’s power, has asked the regulator to approve annual price increases of 16 percent for electricity through 2018.

A 4.8 percent decline in the value of the rand against the dollar this year, the second-worst performer among 16 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg, may add to the cost of imports and push the inflation rate higher.

The rand extended its gain after the data was released, rising 0.3 percent at 1:20 p.m. in Johannesburg. The yield on the rand debt due in 2021 dropped 3 basis points to 6.42 percent.