S. African Retail Sales Expand as Consumers Borrow More

South African retail sales growth accelerated for the first time in three months in February as consumer borrowing and spending rose.

Sales rose 3.8 percent from a year earlier, up from a revised 2.2 percent in January, Pretoria-based Statistics South Africa said on its website today. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 11 economists was 1.8 percent. Sales increased 2.7 percent in the month.

“The rate at which households are going into new debt remains strong, growing by just less than 10 percent” in February, Mark Fennell, an analyst at Tradition Group in London, said in an e-mailed note to clients before the data was released. “The credit environment indicates there is still positive monetary space to boost retail sales.”

The central bank kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 5 percent last month, the lowest level in more than 30 years, to support consumer spending even as a weaker rand fueled import costs. The inflation rate was unchanged at 5.9 percent in March, the statistics agency said in a separate report today.

Consumer spending, which makes up two-thirds of expenditure in the economy, may moderate after confidence slumped to a nine-year low in the first quarter.

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