South Africa Trade Surplus Rises in June as Oil Imports Drop

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South Africa posted two consecutive months of trade surpluses for the first time since the end of 2013 as exports of vegetable products climbed and oil imports dropped.

The surplus grew to 5.8 billion rand ($459 million) in June from a revised 4.9 billion rand in May, the Pretoria-based South African Revenue Service said in an e-mailed statement on Friday. The median estimate of 12 economists surveyed by Bloomberg was for a surplus of 4 billion rand. The deficit for the first half of the year was 24.6 billion rand compared with 46.8 billion rand in 2014.

A surplus on the trade account may help to further narrow the gap on the current account, the broadest measure of trade in goods and services, and bolster the rand. The current-account shortfall eased to 4.8 percent of gross domestic product in the three months through March, from 5.1 percent in the previous quarter.

“The surplus is partly due to currency weakness,” Isaac Matshego, an economist at Nedbank Group Ltd., said by phone from Johannesburg on Friday. “It will be supportive of the rand, but going forward we do expect the decline in commodity prices will hurt export values.”

The rand reversed losses to trade 0.8 percent stronger at 12.5933 per dollar by 3:16 p.m. in Johannesburg, paring the decline this year to 8.1 percent. Yields on government rand bonds due December 2026 rose less than one basis point to 8.26 percent.

Export Rise

The revenue service said exports rose 1.6 percent to 90.3 billion rand as shipments of vegetable products surged by 1.1 billion rand, or 25 percent. Exports of mineral products, which include iron ore and coal, declined by 1 billion rand, or 5 percent.

Imports increased 0.7 percent to 84.5 billion rand. Purchases of mineral products, which include oil, fell by 2.1 million rand, or 14 percent.

The current-account deficit will probably narrow to 4.6 percent this year from 5.4 percent in 2014, the Reserve Bank said on July 23. Further improvement will be constrained by the recent decline in commodity prices, it said.

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